The transportation of heavy crudes such as diluted bitumen (dilbit) sourced from Canadian oil sands through freshwater habitat requires the generation of information that will contribute to risk assessments, spill modelling, management, and remediation for the protection of aquatic organisms. Juvenile sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) were exposed acutely (96 h) or subchronically (28 d) to the water-soluble fraction (WSFd) of Cold Lake Blend dilbit at initial total polycyclic aromatic compound (TPAC) concentrations of 0, 13.7, 34.7, and 124.5 µg/L. A significant induction (>3-fold) of hepatic liver ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity was induced by 96 h in fish exposed to [TPAC] ≥ 34.7 µg/L and at ≥13.7 µg/L for a 28 d exposure. Exposure resulted in a typical physiological stress response and disturbance of ion homeostasis; this included elevations in plasma [cortisol], [lactate], [Na], and [Cl], and significant reductions in muscle [glycogen]. Critical swimming speed (U) was significantly reduced (28.4%) in the acute exposure at [TPAC] 124.5 µg/L; reductions of 14.2% and 35.4% were seen in fish subchronically exposed at the two highest concentrations. Reductions in U were related to significant reductions in aerobic scope (24.3-46.6%) at [TPAC]s of 34.7 and 124.5 µg/L, respectively. Exposure did not impair the ability to mount a secondary stress response following burst exercise, however, the time required for biochemical parameters to return to baseline values was prolonged. Alterations in critical systems supporting swimming, exercise recovery and the physiological stress response could result in decreased salmonid fitness and contribute to population declines if a dilbit spill occurs.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Christopher J Kennedy