Monday, October 4, 2010

Mutant fish!

Posted By on Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 2:26 PM

No kidding, The Sun News is reporting that the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that 90 percent of the largemouth bass pulled from Bull Creek, near Myrtle Beach, had male and female sex cells. Keep in mind, these fish were pulled from the same water the people in Horry County drink.

Of course, this isn't a problem confined to that creek, or even that county. Scientists have known for years that there's a problem with the fish worldwide. They suspect the problem has to do with what we put in the water, things we don't even realize we're discharging -- like medications. (And, in this case, hormones and the chemicals that mimic hormones.)

Here's what we can't forget: The water we flush is used by downstream municipalities for drinking water. And, don't think we're immune. We're all downstream from someplace.

From The Sun Times:

The USGS study wasn't looking for intersex fish when it started, but the discovery of the prevalence of the issue in certain types of fish was groundbreaking, said Bringolf.

The original intent of the study was to look for contaminants in the river basins and catalog them, part of which includes taking samples of species that live in those waters. The study looked at 16 types of fish, but not in every area that was examined. Most of the species had little or no intersex characteristics, but bass and carp turned up intersex results. In Bull Creek, the research team looked at 11 largemouth bass, 10 of which had intersex features. Intersex fish were found all over the country and in river basins with varying conditions.

The Waccamaw Riverkeeper is co-sponsoring a Waccamaw water quality data conference today that will stress the importance of volunteers monitoring stormwater and general water quality. Volunteers aren't armed with the same equipment as the academic researchers, but program coordinators say that getting residents interested in protecting the area's watershed is the first step in protecting the rivers and the fish.

Howell said he plans to continue fishing in the creek, but he's wary of what the long-term effects could be.

"You want to know what is happening because if the water is doing that to the fish, then what happens to us?" he said. "What happens to women who are pregnant or babies that aren't born yet? You want to know what they're doing to make sure we're safe and whether there's more happening other than here's this study and we don't know why it's happening or what it means."

Read the entire article, by Claudia Lauer, here.

Further reading:

An NBC report on hormones in fish from two years ago:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. Additionally, she's on the steering committee for the Greater Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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