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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Fish Projects:
Pink Salmon Persistence of Oil in Spawning Habitat

  picture of pink salmon spawning habitat

Principal Investigators:

Michael L. Murphy
(907) 789-6036

Stanley D. Rice
(907) 789-6020

View Poster:  Oiling of Spawning Habitat

Levels of oil contamination at pink salmon streams in Prince William Sound were examined to document initial levels of oil exposure and subsequent habitat recovery after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In 1989, 65 streams were heavily oiled and 85 streams were non-oiled.

In 1995, petroleum hydrocarbons were still detected in sediment at 8 of 11 oiled streams sampled. We analyzed over 300 sediment samples from 172 stream deltas that were collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 1989-91, and we collected and analyzed an additional 71 samples from 12 stream deltas (11 oiled, 1 non-oiled) in 1995 to determine habitat recovery. The residual hydrocarbons detected had high molecular weight consistent with weathered Exxon Valdez oil.

Many oiled stream deltas still had significant levels of oil through the 1992-93 salmon incubation period, similar to concentrations of oil in sediments associated in the laboratory with impaired survival of pink salmon embryos. These results indicate that leaching of residual weathered oil into incubation substrate could explain persistent elevated embryo mortality in pink salmon from oiled streams through 1993.

EVOS Trustee Final Report 97194
Murphy, M.L., R.A. Heintz, J.W. Short, M.L. Larsen, and S.D. Rice. 1998. Recovery of pink salmon spawning areas after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project Final Report (Restoration Project 97194), U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratory, Juneau, Alaska. (NTIS No. PB99-110207).


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