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  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Seafood Safety Response


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Environmental and Fisheries Sciences


DWH Seafood Safety
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Seafood Safety Response
In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, there was concern about the risk to human health through consumption of contaminated seafood from the region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency, and Gulf Coast States, worked together to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico was safe to eat by developing seafood safety criteria, monitoring procedures, re-opening protocols, as well as seafood surveillance monitoring plans. As part of this seafood safety assessment, edible tissues of seafood collected in state and federal waters were tested for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dispersants using sensory testing, as well as chemical analyses. To increase the analytical capacities of laboratories testing seafood from the Gulf, the FDA developed and validated high-performance liquid chromatography/fluorescence and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods (in conjunction with NOAA) that accurately and precisely measured chemical compounds, including dispersants, associated with this oil spill event. Thousands of seafood samples collected during reopening and surveillance in the Gulf, as well as those obtained dockside and in the marketplace, have been analyzed using these methods.

Research Themes

Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Effective fisheries management provides economic opportunities and ensures the long-term sustainability of fisheries and the habitats on which they depend. The NWFSC seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data used in stock assessments, the methods for assessing stocks and ecosystem sustainability within the context of human modification of the environment. The NWFSC also provides state-of-the-art science and technology to support aquaculture while protecting and maintaining ecosystem health. Further, pathogens, toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs), chemical contaminants and other stressors of marine ecosystems pose significant risks to health of both seafood resources and to humans. The NWFSC focuses on research to improve understanding of those risks, how to forecast them, and identify means to mitigate their impacts.

Research Foci

Provide scientific support to ensure safe seafood for healthier populations and characterize how human activities and climate affect risks from pathogens, chemical contaminants, and biotoxins
The availability of nutritious and safe seafood from marine ecosystems and aquaculture are essential to maintain and maximize human health. Even though fish are known to have a variety of health benefits, some seafood (wild or farmed) may contain levels of toxic compounds (e.g., chemical contaminants, pathogens, biotoxins) from a variety of human-related and natural sources that can pose health risks to humans, especially for those groups with high rates of seafood consumption. The development of novel methods and technologies to assess seafood safety and biological effects of these toxic compounds remains a priority for commercial, subsistence and recreational consumption of seafood. For example, several species (e.g., zebrafish, sea lions, shellfish) are excellent indicators of environmental stress and potential health threats to marine species and humans. These species can serve as informative animal models for investigations of the mechanisms of toxicity or disease processes. Specific research goals include (1) improve methods for monitoring for the presence of pathogens, toxins and contaminants in seafood products, (2) characterize the environmental and climate conditions that may be favorable for potential biotoxin and pathogen outbreaks, (3) develop technologies to remove chemical contaminants from fish feed and to enhance the nutritional content of aquaculture products, (4) develop a better understanding of the net economic and health benefits of seafood consumption balanced with the risk of exposure to pathogens, toxins and contaminants, and (5) develop new mechanistic animal models for the study of infectious diseases, as well as toxicological, physiological, and biochemical processes relevant to marine animal and human health.


seafood safety
safe for consumer to eat


Federal seafood safety response to the Deepwater Hoizon oil spill
Parent and alkylated PAHs, lipids, and DOSS in seafood samples


Family Penaeidae
penaeid shrimps
Genus Penaeus
Species Acanthocybium solandri
Species Alectis ciliaris
African pompano
Species Anchoa hepsetus
striped anchovy
Species Aristeus antillensis
purplehead gamba prawn
Species Brevoortia patronus
Gulf menhaden
Species Calamus penna
sheepshead porgy
Species Caulolatilus cyanops
blackline tilefish
Species Caulolatilus microps
blueline tilefish, grey tilefish
Species Centropristis philadelphica
rock sea bass
Species Coryphaena hippurus
common dolphinfish, dolphin, dolphinfish, mahi mahi
Species Crassostrea virginica
American cupped oyster, American oyster, eastern oyster
Species Cynoscion arenarius
sand seatrout
Species Cynoscion nothus
silver seatrout
Species Diplectrum formosum
sand perch, sand seabass
Species Epinephelus niveatus
snowy grouper
Species Euthynnus alletteratus
little tunny
Species Hemicaranx amblyrhynchus
bluntnose jack
Species Leiostomus xanthurus
lafayette, spot, spot croaker
Species Lepidocybium flavobrunneum
Species Litopenaeus setiferus
white shrimp
Species Lobotes surinamensis
Atlantic tripletail, tripletail
Species Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps
Species Lutjanus campechanus
northern red snapper, red snapper
Species Lutjanus griseus
gray snapper, grey snapper
Species Lutjanus synagris
lane snapper
Species Merluccius albidus
offshore hake, offshore silver hake, offshore whiting
Species Micropogonias undulatus
Atlantic croaker, hardhead
Species Mycteroperca phenax
Species Nephropsis aculeata
Florida lobsterette
Species Ocyurus chrysurus
yellowtail snapper
Species Pagrus pagrus
common seabream, Couch's sea-bream, red porgy
Species Paralichthys albigutta
Gulf flounder
Species Paralichthys lethostigma
southern flounder
Species Peprilus alepidotus
Species Peprilus burti
Gulf butterfish
Species Polycheles typhlops
Species Pristipomoides aquilonaris
Species Rhomboplites aurorubens
vermilion snapper
Species Sciaenops ocellatus
channel bass, red drum
Species Scomberomorus cavalla
cavalla, king mackeral, king mackerel
Species Scomberomorus maculatus
Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Spanish mackerel
Species Seriola dumerili
amberjack, greater amberjack, greater yellowtail
Species Seriola rivoliana
Almaco jack
Species Sicyonia brevirostris
brown rock shrimp, coral shrimp, Japanese shrimp, red shrimp, ridgeback, rock shrimp
Species Syacium papillosum
dusky flounder
Species Thunnus alalunga
albacore, long-fin tuna, long-fin tunny
Species Thunnus albacares
yellow-fin tunny, yellowfin tuna
Species Thunnus atlanticus
blackfin tuna
Species Thunnus obesus
big-eye tuna, big-eye tunny, bigeye tuna
Species Trachurus lathami
rough scad
Species Urophycis cirrata
Gulf hake
Species Urophycis floridana
southern codling, southern hake
Species Xiphias gladius
swordfish, swordfish sucker


Bernadita Anulacion
Catherine Sloan
Daryle Boyd
David Herman
Denis Da Silva
Douglas Burrows
Gina Ylitalo
Project Group Lead
Jennie Bolton
Jonelle Gates
Richard Boyer
Ronald Pearce