When state fish and game agencies first issued fish-consumption warnings along with your annual licenses back in the ’70s and ’80s, my buddies and I pretty much scoffed at them in unison. Limiting ourselves to just one meal of fish per week was not happening. Heck, in the summer, we’d eat fish five days a week. Besides, we thought, that was for folks who were fishing some golf-course ponds somewhere. The wild places we fished were miles from civilization. Pollutants could not possibly impact the fish swimming in these sorts of lakes and streams.
Or so we thought.
That’s what makes a recently published study from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service especially alarming. In a study of fish in 19 wildlife refuges in the Northeast, fisheries biologists found that 60 to 100 percent of all male smallmouth bass had female egg cells growing in their testes. That includes bronzebacks in the Missisquoi Refuge in far northern Vermont—one of the wilder places in the Northeast. Pollution is the likely cause, and the impact on the smallmouth population has yet to be determined.
“There are no truly untouched areas,” said Luke Iwanowicz, a U.S. Geologic Survey researcher in a National Geographic article published last week. “I think the take away here is that everything we do, everything we use or put on the land, ends up in the water at some point.”
The Nat Geo article, “Why Are These Male Fish Growing Eggs?” is required reading.
_Photograph via umich.edu_