Study Reveals Presence of Pharmaceuticals in Fish in South Florida Waters | Vizcaya key

Biscayne Bay has always been a playful water park for “Capt. Mo” Estevez, a popular inshore and flat fishing guide for Miami Bonefishing at Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Marina.

But, the Miami native wasn’t too surprised after reading a recent report that linked drugs to fish in those waters.

“It’s scary, but not shocking,” he joked, saying there must be a lot of people who use drugs among Miami County’s more than 2.5 million residents. -Dad.

It’s more about pharmaceuticals than ‘hard stuff’, as evidence from a three-year study has shown by researchers at Florida International University, who showed Valium, antibiotics and blood pressure medication, for example, in the blood and tissues of bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. One fish showed 17 different drugs.

“Is it dangerous? Maybe it is, I just don’t know,” Estevez said. “I don’t think if I eat a few fish I’ll have antidepressants raging through me. At least, I hope not.”

The research, funded by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a Miami-based conservation group, points to a serious problem with contamination of the oceans by human sewage.

“These findings are truly alarming,” said Dr. Jennifer Rehage, coastal and fish ecologist and associate professor of Earth and environmental studies at CRF, in a press release. “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 treatment infrastructure issues. long-standing sewage.”

Recently, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill authorizing the allocation of $20 million to clean up and preserve Biscayne Bay. Whether or not that money will be used to improve water treatment or purification systems remains to be seen.2

CRF researchers have taken blood and tissue samples from 93 bonefish from Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys since 2018, when the study began. They found that each bonefish – a species that tends to live in shallow coastal waters with a lifespan of around 20 years – had an average of seven pharmaceuticals present, including blood pressure medications, antidepressants , drugs for the treatment of the prostate, antibiotics and painkillers. .

The good news is that the bonefish, a popular fly and light gamefish, has been recognized as a catch-and-release species in Florida since 2013. The real problem, however, is what the other fish digest and store.

Ed Killer, a veteran outdoor columnist for a group of Treasure Coast newspapers including The Stuart News, said there was cause for concern, especially as researchers found drugs in prey of bonefish, such as crabs, shrimps and finfish.

“The concept (of the FIU study) scares me because it talks about drugs found in bonefish… fish are bio-accumulators, meaning the more they eat , the more toxins they store in their skin,” he said.

“A small shrimp is negligible in size and has a short lifespan. But, for a larger fish, say a 40-pound king mackerel, not only is it high in mercury, but there are these antibiotics. .. they eat other things that are (also exposed to drugs and what bonefish eat).”

Killer remembers writing a column about 20 years ago about high levels of cocaine in the Po River in Italy.

“There was enough cocaine in that river to get you stoned from just a spoonful of water. It happens everywhere, and it’s just a substance,” he said.

Killer said the potential ramifications should be taken at a high level of consideration.

“Let’s say you catch a snooker, 28-32 inches (legal in Florida in season) to take home for dinner… My girlfriend and I just caught a couple before the end of the season, and they weighed about 12 pounds, probably swam 7-8 years old, and were eating other organisms and absorbing chemicals all that time.

“By cooking them, some things break down and some things don’t; we need to know which (medicines) don’t. Now let’s say you eat 5, 6, 7 pounds a year. How does that affect you…I think it’s is a serious problem.”

The American Heart Association, by the way, recommends eating fish twice a week as part of a healthy diet.

Killer said the research was “interesting” when it came to studying bonefish.

“But, is it in sheep’s head, trout, Spanish mackerel … things you catch to eat? We don’t know,” he said, hoping to see more study. in depth on the effects, if any, of the drugs on the fish. on humans. “At this point, I’m a dum-dum, I guess, but I only eat a small amount in a year.”

Killer said that when it comes to offshore fish, like the Mahi Mahi, there would likely be a lot less chance of having “toxins or psychosomatic drugs” in them because they “grow very fast. and would be clean enough”.

“A 40 or 50-pounder would be less than a year old,” he said.

According to an MSN report, Florida has some 4,000 sewage treatment plants. The problem starts when humans swallow a prescription drug and the remaining drug does not fully transform in the bathroom.

“It’s a combination of things, I guess,” said Estevez, who recently returned from a fishing expedition at Black Point Marina in Homestead. “I thought it was just flushing (pills) down the toilet, but I had a doctor on board a few months ago and he said we tend to release the drugs through the materials. faeces and urine, and here it’s just too crowded. I don’t know how good the water treatment process is, but a lot of it comes from sewage.”

Dr Rehage said these processing facilities are outdated and not intended to process pharmaceuticals.

“So we don’t have the right equipment and the right legislation, the rules, the treatment, and it’s escalating and exploding before our eyes,” she said in the MSN report.

Then, of course, there are plastics ingested by fish, high levels of fecal content on particularly crowded beaches, and the occasional red tide and other smelly algal blooms, all of which cause problems for the Florida ecosystem.

Veteran angler Tom Webber saw the fish disappear – just like his charter fishing business at Crandon Park Marina did after 14 years.

“My opinion? I’m not surprised,” Webber said, of the drug study in fish, but there were other indicators.

“The reason I don’t charter anymore is that there’s no (sea) grass (for the fish to feed on) in Biscayne Bay. … (we) were catching 400 tarpon a season, then it was down to 40…they destroyed the Bay.”

When it comes to eating fish, he found options.

“I don’t eat them from the berry,” Webber said. “I didn’t like to keep anything out of the bay anyway, not just pollution but then the fish stocks go down.

“I literally buy shrimp from Key West or other fish markets,” he said. “But I don’t know if he was caught in the bay or not. I just don’t think about it.”

Now working as a venture capital associate in the cryptocurrency market on the Hollywood coast, Webber still finds time to get out his 22-foot boat and enjoy the sport he’s loved for 25 years.

“I went from bonefish,” he said. “The freeze we had (in January) killed half the population of the bay. But, they’re coming back – drugs or not.”

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