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The effects of oil spills on marine fish: Implications of spatial variation in natural mortality

Langangen, Ø., Olsen, E., Stige, L.C., Ohlberger, J., Yaragina, N.A., Vikebø, F.B., Bogstad, B., Stenseth, N.C., Hjermann, D.Ø.
Marine pollution bulletin 2017 v.119 no.1 pp. 102-109
biological production, marine fish, mortality, oil spills, probability, Arctic region
The effects of oil spills on marine biological systems are of great concern, especially in regions with high biological production of harvested resources such as in the Northeastern Atlantic. The scientific studies of the impact of oil spills on fish stocks tend to ignore that spatial patterns of natural mortality may influence the magnitude of the impact over time. Here, we first illustrate how spatial variation in natural mortality may affect the population impact by considering a thought experiment. Second, we consider an empirically based example of Northeast Arctic cod to extend the concept to a realistic setting. Finally, we present a scenario-based investigation of how the degree of spatial variation in natural mortality affects the impact over a gradient of oil spill sizes. Including the effects of spatial variations in natural mortality tends to widen the impact distribution, hence increasing the probability of both high and low impact events.