USF St. Petersburg campus Master's Theses (Graduate)

First Advisor

Major Advisor: Heather Judkins, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Committee member: Erin Pulster, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Committee member: Steve Murawski, Ph.D.


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

November 1, 2019


Red Snapper are commonly recognized as an important fishery across the bordering states of the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and are found in abundance around oil and gas platforms. A small, yet toxic and environmentally persistent component, of crude oil known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are released into Gulf waters through both anthropogenic (e.g., oil and gas activities) and natural (e.g., hydrocarbon seeps) sources. These pollutants are associated with a variety of negative health effects in fish including cardio-toxicity, reproductive and developmental impairment, and external skin lesions. The objectives of this study were to measure and to compare PAH concentrations between tissue matrices (liver, gonad, muscle, and bile samples), by sex and location of capture, in Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, collected at both artificial and natural reef systems in the Northwestern GoM. In 2016, Red Snapper (n = 88) were collected from natural and artificial reefs (standing, toppled, and cutoff oil rigs) to evaluate potential differences in PAH exposures and body burdens. The average PAH concentrations were significantly higher in livers than in gonads and muscles. No significant differences were found in PAH concentrations between sexes in this study. Furthermore, no significant differences were found between structure type for both biliary or muscle PAH concentrations. However, there were significant differences found, when compared to sites further away, from oil and gas platforms. This study shows that the risk of exposure to PAHs by consumption of Red Snapper from oil/gas platforms is no greater than from natural reefs in the Western Gulf of Mexico. This work provides a small-scale analysis but warrants a broader scale analysis of PAH exposure pathways in the Gulf of Mexico.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Conservation Biology Department of Biological Sciences College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida St. Petersburg

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.