Study finds fish in Florida waters contaminated with drugs

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MIAMI – A three-year study recently published by Florida International University found pharmaceuticals present in the blood and tissues of bonefish living off the south coast of Florida.

Researchers from the university’s Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) said in February that not only did each of the 93 fish sampled contain drugs, but the fish contained an average of seven pharmaceuticals each, with at least one containing 17 different substances .

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Lead researcher Jennifer Rehage, an associate professor at the university’s Institute of the Environment, said pharmaceuticals enter coastal fisheries through sewage infrastructure.

“Pharmaceuticals are an invisible threat, unlike algal blooms or murky waters. Yet these results tell us that they pose a formidable threat to our fisheries and underscore the urgent need to address our long-standing wastewater treatment infrastructure issues,” Rehage said.

Examples of drugs found in fish include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, prostate treatments, antibiotics and pain relievers, researchers said. It was noted that many of these drugs were also found in common bonefish prey, indicating that the fishery where the bonefish were tested is not the only region affected by similar drug contamination from bonefish. human origin.

According to Nick Castillo, a Ph.D. student who participated in the study, the drugs could also alter the behavior of infected fish, making them easier prey and reducing their chances in the gene pool.

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“So it might make a fish bolder, it might take risks, it might get eaten by predators more frequently, it might affect its reproduction,” Castillo said.

Jim McDuffie, president and CEO of BTT, said the study underscores an urgent need for Florida to improve its statewide wastewater treatment facilities.

“Pharmaceuticals are an often overlooked dimension of water quality and their presence in South Florida bonefish is of concern. These contaminants pose a significant threat to flatfish fishing, an important part of recreational fishing in Florida saltwater, which has an annual economic impact of $9.2 billion and directly supports more than 88,500 jobs,” McDuffie said.

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