Effects of Hibernia produced water on the embryonic development of the estuarine mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus)
Research into the biological effects of produced water from off shore oil production rigs has attracted considerable attention. In northern waters investigations have been conducted using 'model' fish such as the mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) as well as commercially important species such as cod and flounder. It is difficult to generalize about the responses of these fish since the chemistry of produced water is different depending on its source. Despite the site specificity of produced water general characteristics include elevated salinity, elevated concentrations of metals, and the presence of a suite of alkyl phenols. The dilution factor in situ results in little, if any, elevation of these compounds relative to receiving waters within meters of the outflow. The responses of fish to salinity and metals have been characterized and are generally considered to be of low risk under the conditions of exposure on the Grand Banks. However, recent studies of the effects of alkylphenols (from a number of sources) have shown that low levels of these compounds can affect the endocrine systems of aquatic species.
Produced water, geological water released during the drilling and extraction process of oil and gas, contains a wide variety of contaminants including metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and alkylphenols. All of these constituents are known to be harmful to the sensitive early-life stages of fish. In June 2006, produced water collected from the Hibernia platform (off the coast of Atlantic Canada) was brought back to the Gulf Fisheries Center (GFC; Moncton, NB) to determine its toxicity to the development of mummichog embryos. Mummichog was selected for this study as a model fish species because it is one of the most abundant fish species found in our estuaries. They adapt very well to life in captivity, where they spawn readily during their spawning season (May to July) or can be prompted to spawn by temperature and photoperiod manipulation during winter months. Mummichog embryos are ideal for early-life developmental studies because they are relatively large and have a clear chorion which permits observation of the developing embryo. For these reasons, mummichogs have been used in marine toxicity assays for nearly a century.
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