FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, August 6, 1999
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Deborah R. Kallgren, 804-692-0224
Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH (804) 359-9909
LOW DISSOLVED OXYGEN CAUSE OF DEAD FISH ON EASTERN SHORE
Richmond, Va.) -- Crews from three Virginia agencies investigating fish kills on the Eastern Shore's seaside and bayside have found more fish believed to have been killed by low dissolved oxygen levels.
The Virginia Department of Health, Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Institute of Marine Science are taking water and fish samples to determine whether Pfiesteria has played a part in several recent fish kills. Pfiesteria is a microscopic organism which can produce a toxin harmful to fish and, potentially, to humans. It can be found in brackish water.
A health department shellfish sanitation crew responded to a report of several thousand dead menhaden yesterday in a creek off the Pocomoke River. The crew took water samples in Bullbegger Creek, the site of a July 22 fish kill involving 10,000 menhaden.
"The water samples were hand delivered to Old Dominion University in Norfolk today where they will be analyzed," said Suzanne R. Jenkins, VMD, MPH, Assistant State Epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health and a spokesperson for the Virginia Pfiesteria Task Force. "We may continue to see fish kills from low dissolved oxygen as long as the weather is hot and rainfall is minimal."
The VIMS crew sampled water and fish from the lower Pocomoke River and several creeks. They also found several thousand decaying menhaden at the mouth of Bullbegger Creek. Dissolved oxygen levels were normal at the time of the samples, as scientists had expected. No living or dead fish had lesions.
VIMS continues to investigate fish kills that occurred on August 3 and 5 at Captain's Cove near Greenbackville near the Maryland line. Yesterday, VIMS captured a wide variety of fish using bottom trawls, gill nets and cast nets. None of the fish exhibited evidence of lesions, which have been linked to Pfiesteria in the past. Dissolved oxygen levels were 8 milligrams per liter at the mouth of the creeks, but at the headwaters where fish were dead and dying, results showed no dissolved oxygen in the water. No lesions were found on any of the fish. The ODU analysis of water samples from Captain's Cove revealed low counts of Pfiesteria-like organisms.
"As always, people should avoid eating fish with lesions or sores and avoid swimming where dead or dying fish are present," Dr. Jenkins said.
Virginians seeking information about Pfiesteria or who want to report a fish kill or health problems possibly associated with bad fish or river water may call the Virginia Pfiesteria hotline at 1-888-238-6154. Callers should be prepared to leave their name and a number where they may be reached during business hours, Monday through Friday.