Royal Society Publishing

The Long-Term Effects of the Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill [and Discussion]

G. Conan, G. M. Dunnet, D. J. Crisp


The supertanker Amoco Cadiz wrecked on the coast of northern Brittany in April 1978. The resulting spill of 223 000 t of crude oil polluted some 360 km of rocky or sandy shores, salt marshes and estuaries. An immediate mortality impact was observed. Populations of bivalves, periwinkles, limpets, peracarid crustaceans, heart urchins and sea birds were the most severely affected. Populations of polychaete worms, large crustaceans and coastal fishes were less affected. Three to six generations (5-10 years for bivalves but up to 60 years for birds) may be necessary before populations retrieve their stable age distribution. Delayed effects on mortality, growth and recruitment were still observed up to 3 years after the spill. Estuarine flat fishes and mullets had reduced growth, fecundity and recruitment; they were affected by fin rot disease. Populations of clams and nematodes in the meiofauna declined one year after the spill. Weathered oil is still present in low-energy areas. Species with short life cycles tend to replace long-lived species. A fauna of cirratulid and capitellid polychaete worms now prevails in sandy to muddy areas. For several clam populations, recruitment remains unstable. Three years after the spill it is still premature to decide how long it will take before populations and ecosystems reach their former or new equilibria.

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