Are Fish Getting High From Drug Waste?
April 25, 2012 -
Whole Foods, the Texas-based natural foods supermarket, no longer carries fish considered to be unsustainable. The Whole Foods ban includes fish that is either overfished or caught in a harmful way, according to their website. The popular Atlantic Halibut made the list, though the company will still sell Atlantic cod that is caught by hook and line or gillnets. "Stewardship of the ocean is so important to our customers and to us," David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods told the New York Times. "We're not necessarily here to tell fishermen how to fish, but on a species like Atlantic cod, we are out there actively saying, 'For Whole Foods Market to buy your cod, the rating has to be favorable.'" Here's a look at the list of fish that the superstore no longer sells and why.
Octopus Whole Foods uses ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The ratings are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.
Imported Wild Shrimp "At Whole Foods Market, we've been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we've used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice. Now we're putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!" the company wrote on its blog.
Tuna (from specific areas and catch methods rated "red") On their website, Whole Foods says that they stopped selling "species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna" years ago. The company uses the sustainability ratings of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Rockfish According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however -- trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided."
Swordfish Some of the gear used to fish swordfish "accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks," according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Skate Wing Skates are in the overfished category. Most are also caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch.
Sturgeon According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, "Sturgeon farmed in the U.S. is a good alternative to most wild sturgeon, whose populations have seriously declined due to overfishing for sturgeon eggs (caviar)."
Tautog Also known as black fish, Tautog are considered a "vulnerable" species. They are found close to shore on hard-bottom habitats, occasionally entering brackish water.
Trawl-Caught Atlantic Cod Fishermen often catch cod with bottom trawl, large nets that skim across the seafloor. Trawling, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "damages marine habitats and produces bycatch."
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Turbot A cousin of Pacific halibut, turbot are a right-eyed flatfish -- as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside.
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Fish are becoming fearless, gluttonous and asocial due to pharmaceutical waste, according to a new study that links these behavioral changes to something as seemingly harmless as a person flushing a toilet.
That is because many drugs are excreted from our bodies intact, such that the potent medicine residues wind up in wastewater where they can affect fish.
Fish exposed to human drugs may not seem like an ecological disaster, but it can be, according to the paper published in the latest issue of the journal Science.
For example, "Fish eat zooplanktons that in turn eat algae," co-author Michael Jonsson told Discovery News. "If the feeding rate of zooplankton increases because the fish become more efficient in feeding ... you get an increased amount of algae. This may lead to oxygen depletion of the aquatic system and a higher risk of algal blooms."
Johnsson and his colleagues at Umeå University focused on how perch behave when they are exposed to the anxiety-moderating drug Oxazepam. It’s a commonly prescribed drug, and they found traces of it in wild perch during a routine environmental screening at the River Fyris, Sweden.
Residues of this drug and others are often found downstream from sewage treatment plants that fail to remove or make inactive the pharmaceutical waste.
"Fish bioconcentrate the drugs through their gills," co-author Jerker Fick told Discovery News. "You could say that fish are in equilibrium with the water concentration."
In addition to eating more quickly, the Oxazepam-exposed fish became braver and less social. They left their schools to look for food on their own, a behavior that can be risky, since school formation is a key defense against being eaten by a predator.
Waste from Oxazepam isn’t the only problem.
"Fish, being vertebrates, often have the same drug receptors as humans," co-author Jonatan Klamander said. "It is possible that many different kinds of human pharmaceuticals, or other chemical compounds for that matter, also have an effect on fish."
Other marine life could be affected as well, though the researchers point out that species in deeper water may be somewhat protected, since wastewater concentrations would be lower.
"It is a very elegant and convincing study, demonstrating that low concentrations of a pharmaceutical, found in the environment, can seriously affect the behavior of a wild fish," said Joakim Larsson, an associate professor in the University of Gothenburg’s Institute of Biomedicine.
Neither Larsson, who was not involved with the project, or the study's authors suggest banning or even switching out certain drugs, since that could hurt the people who need them.
"The main solution to deal with environmental exposure and effects of pharmaceuticals is to require and install more efficient sewage treatment (systems)," Larsson said. "There are, of course, costs involved with that, but more advanced treatment could help society to remove many potentially harmful contaminants in one go."