Science Advisory Report 2017/044
Advice on vulnerability assessment of biological components of the St. Lawrence to ship-source oil spills
- The vulnerability assessment of biological components of the St. Lawrence to ship-source oil spills was conducted as part of an Area Response Plan (ARP) pilot project. This assessment is a regional adaptation of the theoretical National Framework for the needs of the St. Lawrence ARP.
- The vulnerability assessment was performed using criteria relating to the exposure potential and resilience of juvenile and adult stages of diadromous, estuarine and marine taxa.
- Relative toxicological sensitivity across taxa was not assessed due to knowledge gaps. Early life stages (eggs and larvae) are considered a priori to be vulnerable.
- The taxa’s exposure potential in the event of a spill was assessed based on the following criteria: littoral use, surface interaction, low mobility and aggregation potential.
- The resilience of taxa was assessed based on the following criteria: population status, low recolonization potential, low reproductive capacity and sediment interaction.
- The criteria used to assess exposure potential and resilience are robust and well defined to meet the objectives of the Framework. They are independent and discriminant, and all of the categories of criteria are equally weighted. These criteria can be applied uniformly across all taxa to be assessed.
- In total, 156 taxa of marine and estuarine algae and plants, 372 taxa of marine and estuarine invertebrates, 82 species of marine, estuarine and diadromous fish and 13 marine mammal species were divided into 323 groups of taxa, and then their vulnerability was assessed.
- Of these, 136 groups of taxa (42%) are highly vulnerable: 28% of marine and estuarine algae and plants, 56% of marine and estuarine invertebrates, 23% of marine, estuarine and diadromous fish and 23% of marine mammals.
- The total uncertainty related to the assessment is 20% for algae and plants, 34% for invertebrates and 9% for fish. There is no uncertainty in the scoring of marine mammals. These uncertainties affected the accuracy of the assessment.
- Most of the results were confirmed by experts.
- Vulnerability analysis is a useful reference tool for oil spill response and planning specialists.
This Science Advisory Report is from the January 24 and 25, 2017, meeting on the vulnerability assessment of biological components of the St. Lawrence to ship-source oil spills. Additional publications from this meeting will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.
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