Effects and Biomarkers of Diluted Bitumen Exposure Relevant to Seawater Transition in Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
Pipelines carrying diluted bitumen (dilbit)Footnote 1 from the Alberta oil sands cross watersheds that are critical habitat for many freshwater fish, and as the volume of dilbit being moved increases, so does the risk of a spill. Crude oils are highly toxic to aquatic organisms. However, there are key knowledge gaps in assessing the impact of dilbit spills on freshwater ecosystems. There is a particular need for research on the physiological responses of juvenile fish to dilbit exposure, and the related impacts on fish health, disease rates, reproductive success, and other critical life-history traits.
Previous NCAG research revealed that when Sockeye Salmon were exposed to very low concentrations of Cold Lake Summer Blend dilbit (CLSB), it impaired fish swimming capacity and caused changes suggestive of impaired kidney function and increased muscle damage. The exposure concentrations used would be similar to what fish would be exposed to in the event of a spill. These impacts could ultimately reduce fish survival during their seaward migration. This new NCAG-funded project will specifically examine how CLSB dilbit exposure in Atlantic Salmon affects several different functional characteristics, such as swimming ability, related to seaward migration. Data will be generated that links exercise performance and recovery to muscle integrity and function, and that links seawater tolerance to cellular changes in the gill and kidney. In addition, this project will identify and validate biomarkers of dilbit exposure in blood that can be used as non-lethal bio-indicators of population health in the event of accidental spill.
2017 - 2020
Atlantic: Gulf of St Lawrence
Dr. Todd Gillis
Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
University of Guelph
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