Response of coastal fishes to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster
The ecosystem-level impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have been largely unpredictable due to the unique setting and magnitude of this spill. We used a five-year (2006–2010) data set within the oil-affected region to explore acute consequences for early-stage survival of fish species inhabiting seagrass nursery habitat. Although many of these species
spawned during spring-summer, and produced larvae vulnerable to oil-polluted water, overall and species-by-species catch rates were high in 2010 after the spill (1,9896220 fishes km-towed21 [m 6 1SE]) relative to the previous four years (1,080643 fishes km-towed21). Also, several exploited species were characterized by notably higher juvenile catch rates
during 2010 following large-scale fisheries closures in the northern Gulf, although overall statistical results for the effects of fishery closures on assemblage-wide CPUE data were ambiguous. We conclude that immediate, catastrophic losses of 2010 cohorts were largely avoided, and that no shifts in species composition occurred following the spill. The potential long-term
impacts facing fishes as a result of chronic exposure and delayed, indirect effects now require attention.