Thursday, January 26, 2006

Catfish as Canary, II

Well, the results are in, and they aren't good. Of the 30 brown bullhead catfish pulled from the South River for study earlier in the year, 13 had skin cancer, 3 had liver cancer, and 3 had both. As was covered here in March, the exact cause of the tumors isn't known, but one strong possibility is polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogens that are often the product of unburned petroleum fuel.

The Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who performed the research on the catfish, Dr. Fred Pinkney, said the 50 percent skin cancer rate was the highest he had found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the last 10 years. The liver tumor rate was second only to the Anacostia River, which has served essentially as a public sewer for much of the past 50 years (but is now attempting a renaissance of sorts). According to Dr. Pinkney, "I use this as an indicator of habitat quality, and it tells me the habitat quality is not good," in case there was any doubt.

Next steps? The South River Federation and Dr. Pinkney are seeking additional funding so that they can study catfish and sediment samples from some of the surrounding estuaries, such as the Severn River and Rhode River.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home