Analysis of available data from bioassays conducted on adult stages of a wide variety of marine organisms reveals lethal effects from soluble fractions of petroleum and petroleum products. Strict control is suggested for oil development and related activities in certain shallow, highly productive, continental shelf regions, and in relatively confined, ecologically important wetlands and estuaries. Soft-bottom, coastal benthic communities are vulnerable to impact, and recovery from spilled oil could be relatively slow where oil tends to persist or where community stability is extremely low. Bird populations are highly susceptible to lethal and adverse effects, if contact with oil occurs. Local breeding populations of many organisms (including ichthyoplankton and meroplankton) may become heavily impacted, especially in certain confined coastal areas.