In the current study differences were evaluated between a complex 3D multistage population model (SINMOD) and a simpler consumer-resource population model for estimating the effects of crude oil on the marine copepod Calanus finmarchicus. The SINTEF OSCAR model was used to simulate hypothetical oil spills in the Lofoten area in 1995, 1997, and 2001. Both population models simulated a negligible effect of crude oil on the Calanus’ biomass when assuming low species sensitivity. The simple model estimated a larger effect on the biomass (up to a 100% decline) compared to the complex model (maximum decline of 60–80%) at high species sensitivity to crude oil. These differences may be related to the inclusion of copepod advection in the complex model. Our study showed that if little data is available to parameterize a model, or if computational resources are scarce, the simple model could be used for risk screening. Nevertheless, the possibility of including a dilution factor for time-varying biomass should be examined to improve the estimations of the simple model. The complex model should be used for a more in depth risk analysis, as it includes physical processes such as the drift of organisms and differentiation between developmental stages.