Biomarkers in fish from Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska: 1999-2000. Academic Article uri icon


  • To test the hypothesis that biomarker levels in fish collected at Prince William Sound (PWS) sites impacted by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill were higher than those collected at unimpacted sites, a 1999-2000 study collected five fish species and associated benthic sediments from 21 sites in PWS and the eastern Gulf of Alaska (GOA). PWS sites were divided in three oiling categories based upon 1989 shoreline assessments: nonspill path (NSP), spill path oiled (SPO), and spill path not oiled (SPNO). Rockfish (N = 177), rock sole (N = 30), and kelp greenling (N = 49) were collected at near-shore locations (approximately 50-500 m from shore); Pacific halibut (N = 131) and Pacific cod (N = 81) were collected further offshore (approximately 500-7000 m). Fish were assayed for bile fluorescent aromatic contaminants (FAC) and cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) levels measured as liver ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) activity and by immunohistochemistry (IHC) of various tissues. For all species studied at all sites, bile FAC concentrations and CYP1A levels were low and in the same range for fish collected at PWS SPO and SPNO sites relative to NSP sites in PWS and the GOA. Consequently, the hypothesis is rejected for the species studied. The bile FAC results further indicate a pervasive exposure of fish at all sites, including those in the GOA far removed from the effects of the spill, to low levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Analysis of the benthic sediments indicates that the probable sources of this exposure are petrogenic hydrocarbons derived from natural oil seeps and eroding sedimentary rocks in the eastern GOA.

publication date

  • September 15, 2003