Potential impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on large pelagic fishes
Bostater, Charles R.
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Biogeographical analyses provide insights on how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted large pelagic fishes. We georeferenced historical ichthyoplankton surveys and published literature to map the spawning and larval areas of bluefin tuna, swordfish, blue marlin and whale shark sightings in the Gulf of Mexico with daily satellite-derived images detecting surface oil. The oil spill covered critical areas used by large pelagic fishes. Surface oil was detected in 100% of the northernmost whale shark sightings, in 32.8 % of the bluefin tuna spawning area and 38 % of the blue marlin larval area. No surface oil was detected in the swordfish spawning and larval area. Our study likely underestimates the extend of the oil spill due to satellite sensors detecting only the upper euphotic zone and the use of dispersants altering crude oil density, but provides a previously unknown spatio-temporal analysis.