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Fossil Fuels May be Affecting Salmon Populations

by Allen Press, July 21, 2007

Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) derived from fossil fuels are found throughout the world's waters. In particular, estuaries, the primary natal habitat for many marine species, are sinks for these compounds.

Excessive amounts can adversely affect salmon populations. However, such effects may be masked by immigration of fish from unaffected areas.

In a new study published in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM), PAH contamination was simulated for a single pink salmon population in an Alaskan watershed. This salmon population has been monitored almost continuously for 70 years, since 1934. The size of the salmon diminished as their natal habitat became increasingly contaminated, indicating increased vulnerability to extinction.

According to the study's author Ron Heintz, of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, managers should view salmon populations in decline with a great deal of concern, especially populations exposed to PAHs and other contaminants during sensitive life stages. Management actions in such cases would be prudent given that once significant population declines have been detected in a population it may be too late to prevent further declines.

To read the entire article, click here.

Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management is the quarterly, peer-reviewed journal of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) devoted to bridging the gap between scientific research and the use of science in decision-making, regulation and environmental management.

SETAC is a global professional, nonprofit organization comprised of nearly 5,000 individuals from more than 70 countries in the fields of environmental chemistry and toxicology, biology, ecology, atmospheric sciences, health sciences, earth sciences, and environmental engineering. For more information, please visit

Allen Press
Fossil Fuels May be Affecting Salmon Populations, July 21, 2007

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