Youmi Choia,b, Moonkoo Kima,b, Chang Pyo Hongc, Jung-Hoon Kanga,b, Jee-Hyun Junga,b,*
aRisk Assessment Research Center, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Geoje, 53201, Republic of Korea
bDepartment of Ocean Science, Korea University of Science and Technology, Daejeon, 34113, Republic of Korea
cTheragen Etex Bio Institute Inc., 145 Gwanggyo-ro, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon-si, 16229, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea
Chemical contaminants can be discharged by vessel hull cleaning processes, such as scraping, jet spraying, and painting, all of which produce readily transportable contaminants into the marine environment, where they are referred to as ‘hotspots’ of contamination in coastal areas. However, many countries have not yet established effective evaluation methods for disposal of waste mixtures or management guidelines for areas of hull cleaning. To define the toxic effects of wastewater from vessel hull cleaning in dry docks on resident non-target organisms, we investigated the chemical concentrations and developmental toxicity on embryonic flounder, which is an organism sensitive to chemical contamination. In this study, the dominant inorganic metal discharged was zinc when cleaning Ship A (300 tons) and copper for Ship B (5,000 tons). The wastewater from high-pressure water blasting (WHPB) of Ship A (300 tons) and Ship B (5,000 tons) produced a largely overlapping suite of developmental malformations including pericardial edema, spinal curvature, and tail fin defects. Forty-eight hours after exposure, the frequency percentage of malformation began to increase in embryos exposed to a 500-fold dilution of WHPB from Ships A and B. We performed transcriptome sequencing to characterize the toxicological developmental effects of WHPB exposure at the molecular level. The results of the analysis revealed significantly altered expression of genes associated with muscle cell differentiation, actin-mediated cell contraction, and nervous system development (cutoff P < 0.01) in embryonic flounder exposed to high-pressure cleaning effluent from Ship A. Genes associated with chromatin remodeling, cell cycling, and insulin receptor signaling pathways were significantly altered in embryonic flounder exposed to WHPB of Ship B (cutoff P < 0.01). These findings provide a greater understanding of the developmental toxicity and potential effects of WHPB effluent on coastal embryonic fish. Furthermore, our results could inform WHPB effluent management practices to reduce impacts on non-target coastal organisms.