MEPS 339:283-299 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps339283

Fish and oil in the Lofoten–Barents Sea system: synoptic review of the effect of oil spills on fish populations

Dag Ø. Hjermann1, Arne Melsom2, Gjert E. Dingsør1, Joël M. Durant1, Anne Maria Eikeset1, Lars Petter Røed2,3, Geir Ottersen4,5, Geir Storvik1,6, Nils Chr. Stenseth1,7,*

1Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
2Norwegian Meteorological Institute, PO Box 43 Blindern, 0313 Oslo, Norway
3Department of Geosciences, Section Meteorology and Oceanography, University of Oslo, PO Box 1022 Blindern, 0315 Oslo, Norway
4Institute of Marine Research, Gaustadalléen 21, 0349 Oslo, Norway
5Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research/GEOS, University of Bergen, Allégaten 55, 5007 Bergen, Norway
6Department of Mathematics, University of Oslo, PO Box 1053 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
7Institute of Marine Research, Flødevigen Marine Research Station, 4817 His, Norway
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The Lofoten-Barents Sea area, which contains some of the most valuable fish stocks of the Atlantic Ocean, is being considered for offshore oil production. We review the effects of a hypothetical oil spill on fishes in this area, with a focus on effects on the egg and larval stage of the 3 dominating fish stocks: NE Arctic cod Gadus morhua, Barents Sea capelin Mallotus villosus, and Norwegian spring-spawning herring Clupea harengus. In particular, we emphasise that the long-term population impact of an oil spill depends on ecological and oceanographic factors, some of which have been poorly explored. Among these are (1) effects of the physical state of the ocean, especially mesoscale circulation features, on the advection of oil and fish larvae, (2) effects of the spatial distribution of spawners, (3) effects of harvesting on stock structure and length of the spawning season, (4) effects of natural mortality and species interactions subsequent to an oil spill, and (5) chronic sublethal effects from persistent oil residues.


KEY WORDS: Advection · Fishes · Pollution · Petroleum · Vulnerability


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