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Report Points to Stormy Waters for the Smallmouth Bass in PA

PHOTO: Sometimes called a “bronzeback” for its brassy brown hue, the smallmouth is one of the strongest fish for its weight.
PHOTO: Sometimes called a “bronzeback” for its brassy brown hue, the smallmouth is one of the strongest fish for its weight.
April 29, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The smallmouth bass is in trouble in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, and a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation points to a nasty combination of pollution, pesticides and other factors as a major reason why.

According to Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director for the Foundation, it is a deadly serious situation for a prized game fish that experts say generates $166 million for local economies and supports 1300 jobs.

"They are suffering from disease and extensive die-off, particularly the adults and the young of the year, to the degree to which many fishery scientists fear that this vitally-important economic driver of an aquatic species is at or near collapse," he declared.

Campbell said the science is still maturing on exactly how this combination of factors is forming, adding that what's important is to control what can be controlled, and that's pollution.

"In terms of the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution: the endocrine disruptors," he specified. "And that's why it's so important to continue on our efforts to reduce pollution entering into our rivers and streams that feed into the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay."

Campbell believes that, in terms of pollution reduction, there are common-sense, low-cost steps that the state, and individuals, can take in order to reduce pollution.

"For instance, the passage of a lawn-care-fertilizer bill as it pertains to how much phosphorus and nitrogen suburban and urban communities can apply that are going to have demonstrable impact, bringing us further and closer to solving the problem of the smallmouth bass issue."

Campbell stated that everyone who values healthy fish and clean rivers should be concerned. The Bay Foundation encourages the state to continue efforts to reduce pollution, commit the necessary resources to clean water programs, and to further study the issue.

Because smallmouth bass are intolerant of many types of pollution, experts liken them to the "canary in the coal mine": that is, their health is a solid gauge of water quality.

See the full report at CBF.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA