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Grouper, Gulf of Mexico, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Hepatobiliary, Chronic exposure, Deepwater Horizon

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Ten grouper species grouper (n = 584) were collected throughout the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) from 2011 through 2017 to provide information on hepatobiliary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. Liver and bile samples were analyzed for PAHs and their metabolites using triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC/MS/MS) and high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection (HPLC-F), respectively. Data were compared among species and sub-regions of the GoM to understand spatiotemporal exposure dynamics in these economically and ecologically important species. Significant differences in the composition and concentrations of PAHs were detected spatially, over time and by species. The West Florida Shelf, Cuba coast and the Yucatan Shelf had a greater proportion of the pyrogenic PAHs in their livers than the other regions likely due to non-oil industry related sources (e.g., marine vessel traffic) in the regional composition profiles. Mean liver PAH concentrations were highest in the north central region of the GoM where DWH occurred. Biliary PAH concentrations and health indicator biometrics initially decrease during the first three years following the DWH oil spill but significantly increased thereafter. Increased exposures are likely explained by the resuspension of residual DWH oil as well as continued inputs from natural (e.g., seeps) sources and other anthropogenically derived sources (e.g., riverine runoff, other oil spills, and leaking oil and gas infrastructure). The increasing trend in PAH concentrations in the bile and liver of grouper species in the north central region of the GoM post-DWH suggest continued chronic exposures, however the critical stage at which permanent, irreparable damage may occur is unknown. Long-term monitoring of PAH levels and associated fish health biomarkers is necessary to evaluate impacts of chronic exposures, particularly in regions subject to intensive oil extraction activities.

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Science of The Total Environment, v. 703, art. 135551