Stillaguamish Tribe looks at pharmaceutical effects on fishJun 7th, 2012 • Category: News, Video
Wastewater and runoff containing products that mimic estrogen can interfere with the endocrine system of fish, potentially resulting in males displaying both male and female characteristics.
“Emerging contaminants get into our water through a variety of sources, such as agricultural runoff, septic systems, stormwater and wastewater treatment plants,” said Stillaguamish biologist Jennifer Sevigny, who has been working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since 2006 to study endocrine disruption in fish.
The latest research is part of Stillaguamish natural resources technician Jody Pope’s master’s thesis in freshwater ecology for Western Washington University.
“We’re looking to see what kind of effect the contaminants could have on these fish,” Pope said.
The tribe’s natural resources department and the USGS measured water quality and collected cutthroat trout in four sites in the Stillaguamish watershed.
“We’re using cutthroat because chinook are endangered and we want to stay as far away from them as we can,” Pope said. “We want to use a salmonid species so we can attribute what we’re finding in the cutthroat to other species, including chinook, coho and chum.”
NWIFC fish pathologist Craig Olson assisted in determining the sex of the fish and taking blood samples. USGS brought a mobile lab to sample the cutthroat onsite to test for vitellogenin, a female egg-producing protein.
“A lot of things that we’re concerned about being in the environment, specifically the stuff that’s in birth control pills, will cause males to produce vitellogenin when normally they shouldn’t,” said USGS biologist Patrick Moran. “So it’s a great marker for exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds.”
The tribe and USGS will compare the water quality samples with fish tissue to determine whether the fish have been affected by chemicals in the water.
“I think it would be great to find nothing because then we could say our creeks are really clean,” Pope said.
Watch a video of Stillaguamish and USGS staff electrofishing Church Creek and sampling cutthroat:
For more information, contact: Jennifer Sevigny, Stillaguamish Tribe biologist, 360-631-2372 or email@example.com; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC information officer, 360-424-8226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.