None of us do as much as we really can, but I like to think I am a thoughtful conservationist. As ethical hunters and anglers, we have an ethical obligation to be good stewards of resources. There are too many legitimate causes and concerns to jump on every bandwagon, but I try to thoughtfully participate and educate on issues that I think have far-reaching, long-lasting, detrimental effects.
I’ve only really been saltwater fishing for one magical trip, but I fell in love, and I would be lying if I said my mind is frequently occupied with finding ways to get me back out on the water. So, I was scrolling through Instagram and happened upon an article about a recent study commissioned by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. The data, even to a layperson, is alarming. For years we have been reading about the effects of pharmaceuticals making it into our waterways via water treatment processes, and we have known for decades how bad stuff like pesticides make it into the food chain. While the world is distracted by war and economic peril and social issues like transgenderism and abortion (not that these aren’t important issues) earth is getting sick. Prevent ably so.
You can read the full study here, but here are some of the high points:
- Researchers analyzed 93 South Florida bonefish for 104 commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals.
- Pharmaceuticals were detected in bonefish in all locations sampled, from Biscayne Bay to west of Key West, in both urban and remote areas.
- All bonefish contained pharmaceuticals. An average of 7 pharmaceuticals were detected per bonefish. One fish contained 17 pharmaceuticals.
- A total of 58 pharmaceuticals were detected in bonefish.
- The most commonly detected pharmaceuticals were:
- Blood pressure medications
- Prostate medications
- Pain relievers
- The list also includes heart medications, antihistamines, antifungal and stomach medications, and opioids.
- Heart medications, antihistamines, and antidepressants lead exceedances.
- Exposure to pharmaceuticals by bonefish may occur by inhalation (via water/sediment) or through food.
- Pharmaceuticals were present in all prey tested and contain the same types of pharmaceuticals as detected in bonefish
Having worked in City Government, I know that many municipalities’ water treatment plants are old, under-capacity and inefficient. Further, “Approximately 5 billion prescriptions are filled each year in the US, yet there are no environmental regulations for the disposal of pharmaceuticals worldwide. Pharmaceutical contaminants originate most often from human wastewater and are not sufficiently removed by conventional water treatment. They remain active at low doses, can be released constantly, and exposure can affect all aspects of fish behavior, with negative consequences for their reproduction and survival. Pharmaceutical contaminants have been shown to affect all aspects of the life of fish, including their feeding, activity, sociability, and migratory behavior.”
The study points out that “Pharmaceuticals are an often overlooked dimension of water quality and their presence in South Florida bonefish is cause for concern. These contaminants pose a significant threat to the flats fishery, an important part of Florida’s recreational saltwater fishery, which has an annual economic impact of $9.2 billion and directly supports 88,500 jobs.” Exactly why, whether a Federal, State, or Local issue – surely these are non-partisan problems that we can agree need to be addressed. Many of these studies, though region- or species-specific, are like the canaries in the coal mine. Things are amiss, and they need to be addressed.
Politics aside, water treatment plants are exactly the kind of infrastructure that can benefit from initiatives like the Build Back Better plan. Let’s hope.