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Smallmouth Bass With Cancer Caught in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River

A massive tumor on a smallmouth bass caught in the Susquehanna River in November 2014 is cancerous, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission said.
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Environmental experts are reeling from the disclosure that a tumor on a smallmouth bass caught last year in the Susquehanna River is malignant, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission said.

It’s the first case of cancer in smallmouth bass recorded in the river, and while this particular affliction is rare in that species, it is a sign of poor fish health overall, commission Executive Director John Arway said in a statement on May 4.

“As we continue to study the river, we find young-of-year and now adult bass with sores, lesions and more recently a cancerous tumor, all of which continue to negatively impact population levels and recreational fishing,” he said. “The weight-of-evidence continues to build a case that we need to take some action on behalf of the fish.”

Samples of 22,000 adult smallmouth bass surveyed since 2005 have revealed not cancer, but sores and lesions on young bass “at alarming rates,” the statement said. The statement did not finger-point toward industrial pollution, but a Washington Post investigation in 2013 noted that some wildlife experts see it as a probable cause.

“The fish, particularly those in the lower Susquehanna River, have been struck by a perfect storm of pollution, parasites, disease and endocrine disruptors that are changing the sex of males,” the Washington Post said, paraphrasing findings by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The commission has been trying to get the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate the Susquehanna River as an “impaired waterway,” to no avail so far, the Washington Post reported on May 5.

Fish throughout Indian country are known to have health problems directly tied to pollution, as in the case of the two-headed trout caught in Idaho.

RELATED: Are Pollution Rules Too Strict? Mining Company Says Yes, Two-Headed Trout Says No

The Susquehanna River flows through the ancestral home of the Susquehannock Tribe and in 2012 received a federal designation as part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

RELATED: Susquehanna River, Ancestral Home of the Susquehannock, Receives Historic Designation