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Introcluction This report follows up and expands on the ear 1 ier National Research Council (NRC) report Petroleum in the Marine Environment published in 1975. As noted in the preface to the present publication, much of the earlier report was based on studies and findings predating a 1973 workshop that formed a basis for the earlier study. Since then, much research has provided further insight into the problems of dealing with petroleum in the world's oceans. The new interpretations and data bases that have developed in the intervening years are summarized in the present document. The report is the result of an intensive and multidisciplinary effort and, to the best of our ability, represents fair assessment of the problems relating to petroleum-derived hydro- carbons in the marine environment. This report is an extension of the earlier report in several ways. It follows the same basic format in that the major chapters deal with inputs, analytical methods, fates, and effects. However, all chapters are larger than those in the 1975 report, the significantly expanded chapter on effects reflecting the extensive scientific effort in recent years that has gone into determining effects of petroleum on marine organisms. To this purpose, extensive lists of references are provided at the ends of the chapters for readers who wish more detailed infor- mation on various subjects. We have also included discussions of petroleum contamination in such geograph ic areas as the polar environ- ment and the mangrove and coral reef systems of tropical waters--areas not considered in the earlier report. In many instances we have gone into considerable detail, especially in those disciplines where new work appears promising or new ideas have added to our understanding of the hazards of petroleum contamination. Finally, where necessary, we have taken extra space for discussions of controversial subjects such as the potential hazards to human health, the impact of oil-related activities in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and the potential impact of petroleum on f isher ies. To avoid the space-consuming repetition of tional names, abbreviations are used extensively throughout the report. To aid the reader, a list of abbreviated terms is given in Appendix B. Petroleum is a naturally occurring substance composed of a highly complex and variable mixture of hydrocarbons with minor amounts of compounds containing nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen atoms in their mole . scientific and organiza 1
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2 cures. For the purposes of this report, the term "petroleum" will be used generically; i.e., it will include, in large part, the commercially produced materials ranging from methane-rich natural gases to extremely viscous heavy oils. It will also include refined products such as gaso- line, kerosene, and lubricating oil, but not commercially transformed product. such as halogenated hydrocarbons, ethylene glycol, formalde- hyde, and phthalic acid. Because many of the compounds found in petroleum can also originate from sources other than petroleum--for example, hydrocarbons from forest and grass fires, and from combustion of fossil fuels (e.g., coal, fuel oil, and gas)--we caution that it was often difficult to separate these types of sources of hydrocarbons in the marine environment. We have attempted to address this issue explicitly in appropriate sections of this report. It would have been very satisfying if we could have found answers to all the questions relating to petroleum in the marine environment. In fact, progress has been made in many areas, and the result is better understanding and more credible evaluations of potential hazards. However, uncertainties about various physical, chemical, and biological processes in the ocean and the complexity and variety of petroleum types and products contribute to doubts that remain regarding the var ious inputs, fates, and ef feats of petroleum in the mar ine environment . Special mention should be made of two relatively recent parallel studies that culminated in published reports while this report was being prepared. One was prepared by the Mar ine Pollution Subcommittee of the Br itish National Committee on Oceanic Research for the Royal Society in 1980 and entitled The Effects of Oil Pollution: Some Research Needs. The other is Oil Pollution of the Sea, prepared for the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in 1981. These reports appeared to be designed primarily to help assess the relative importance of oil pollution research within the context of other environmental pollution and research priorities as applied to the United Kingdom, although information of generic use was assembled in these reports. The focus of the present report is to provide an independent assessment of the knowledge and state-of-the-art research concerned with petroleum in the marine environment. We gained this assessment by convening a public hearing, commissioning review papers by 46 experts, seeking extensive peer review of those papers, and convening a large workshop, followed by repeated distillations, summations, and evaluations of this large body of information by the six-member steering committee and additional peer review at key stages in the final document development.