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January 26, 2023
Fish off the coast of Florida are testing positive for a slew of pharmaceuticals as human wastewater makes its way out into the sea.
Researchers at Florida International University and the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, which is a nonprofit based in Miami and focused on bonefish and tarpon conservation, studied the two types of fish found in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys since 2018.
They collected blood and tissue samples from 93 bonefish and tarpon in the area, and found that each one had an average of seven drugs in its system – including antidepressants, blood pressure medications, prostate treatment medications, antibiotics and pain relievers.
One fish even had a total of 17 different drugs in its tissues, the study found, and the researchers found pharmaceuticals in the bonefish prey, including crabs and shrimp.
These drugs can affect every aspect of fish life, including their feeding habits, sociability and migratory behavior – threatening the already diminishing bonefish population in the area.
“These findings are truly alarming,” Jennifer Rehage, a coastal and fish ecologist and associate professor at the university, said in the release. “Pharmaceuticals are an invisible threat, unlike algal blooms or turbid waters. Yet these results tell us that they are a formidable threat to our fisheries and highlight the pressing need to address our longstanding wastewater infrastructure.”
The pharmaceutical contaminants can also negatively affect bonefish behavior.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes bonefish as “near threatened,” with their population declining due to a combination of fishing, habitat loss and water contamination.
Since 2013, bonefish have been a catch-and-release only species in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The fish are exciting targets for recreational fishers because they are fast and difficult to catch, and can be a long as 3 meters.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN