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At the request of the companies, a number of researchers at the Science Faculty of the University of the Basque Country have analysed what type of contaminants are released as a result of extraction of crude oil in the North Sea and how these contaminants affect living things in this marine environment.

For this research, mussels were studied. Throughout the world, these invertebrates are often used for investigating the state of the coastline and, so, there is a lot of information on the effects generated by the contaminants. This is why, although these molluscs are not inhabitants of this marine environment, they are regularly used for analysing the environment health status at the open sea.

Network of cages

A number of cages are submerged at high sea and then are distributed around the oil platforms, normally in two opposite directions.

The first cages are positioned close to the platform, at some 500 metres for example; the next set are placed somewhat further away at 1000 metres distance and, finally, the third group of cages are located at quite a distance 10,000 metres from the platform.

After 4 to 6 weeks, analyses are carried out measuring biomarkers in the mussels. Biomarkers indicate the degree of response to environmental insult at cellular and molecular levels - early warning signals of the effects of pollution in the ocean.

Amongst other parameters, the mussels are analysed to determine whether they have accumulated metals or hydrocarbons, whether they are stressed, have the immune system weakened, have suffered damage in the reproductive system, abnormalities occur in subsequent generations, and so on. Nevertheless, the actual endponit of these studies is not to determine the health state of the mussels these molluscs are used as sentinels of the situation of th
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Contact: Garazi Andonegi
garazi@elhuyar.com
34-94-336-3040
Elhuyar Fundazioa
4-Apr-2005


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