(Top: healthy tuna larva. Bottom: larva exposed to crude oil)
According to a newly published study conducted by NOAA and other scientists, crude oil, is responsible for, “development abnormalities” in yellowfin and bluefin tuna. The research began in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of the Deepwater Horizon in 2010, the United States’ largest oil spill.
Reaching their findings was extremely challenging, as tuna are notoriously hard to raise in captivity and usually do not survive being captured. The team had to use the only land based Bluefin tuna hatchery in the world, located in Australia to conduct their experiments. The study found that crude oil causes heart conditions in tuna, and several other species, which can lead to heart failure. Other conditions include physiological deformities and death.
The study also found that the levels of the toxins found in crude oil that result in damage can be low as 15 parts per billion. A very alarming discovery considering that an oil spill the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill released upwards of 4.9 million barrels of oil into prime tuna spawning habitat.