While not quite a fish, I think that the sea turtle population in the gulf is going to be hit the hardest by this. Out of seven endangered sea turtles in the world, five live in the gulf. With low numbers, it would be hard for these populations to recover if they lost any more of their species in the gulf.
This is tough to determine so early on in the story of the Gulf Oil Spill. There may be some prolonged longer-term effects on certain fish species that we are unaware of. However it is a fairly safe bet that the negative effects will be felt most by top predators. This is the same reasoning as the argument that top predatory fish have the highest concentration of mercury in their bodies.
If smaller fish, algae, plankton are absorbing chemicals into their bodies, they are then eaten by larger animals, who absorb not only chemicals from the water but also from the prey. This cycle goes on and on until the top predators consume the next highest predator and absorb all the chemicals absorbed by all levels of the food chain, as well as the concentration that they consume from the water itself.
Also, most sea turtles travel, breed, nest, and feed within the Gulf of Mexico. All species of sea turtle are threatened species. This is a very bad combination for the sea turtles. They may end up being the species most affected by the oil spill…
Anything that (used) to live on the bottom, and phytoplankton
The estuaries, wetlands, mangrove forests, and marshes are vital to the propagation of many fish and invertebrates in the Gulf, and are ultimately going to be the most effected areas. So any spawning fish or organism that relies on those areas, will get hit hard. In terms of numbers, shrimp, crabs, and mollusks may get the worst of it since they filter water and absorb any toxins into their membranes. But as for “most effected,” I think every one else is right by suggesting that top predatory fish and endangered species like sea turtles are most threatened by the spill. With so few left, the deaths of just a handful could make it hard for the sea turtle population to recover. I think they will recover (being an optimist,) but the problem with reducing a population of a given species to such low numbers, is the notion of a “genetic bottleneck.” Like California Sea Otters that were decimated to a tiny population of roughly only 75 after years of exploitation for the creatures’ fur, the genetic diversity is narrowed down to the traits of the last remaining survivors. So when an environmental disturbance comes along, e.i. a disease like taxoplasmosis in the otters’ case, the species has a very difficult time surviving the blow. That’s why it’s so important to protect species before they become threatened or endangered, since we’re not only protecting their numbers, we’re protecting the range of genetic variance.
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