Fish Living at Depths of 2000 Feet are Impacted by Human-Caused Ocean Pollution

First Posted: Mar 26, 2015 08:56 AM EDT

Surface waters aren't the only regions being impacted by pollution in the ocean. Scientists have discovered that deep water marine fish living on the continental slopes at depths of 2,000 feet are more are suffering health problems due to human-caused pollution.

The researchers examined fish in the Bay of Biscay, west of France. They sampled animals in an area with no apparent point-source pollution in order to get a sense of general ocean conditions.

"In areas ranging from pristine, high mountain lakes of the United States to ocean waters off the coasts of France and Spain, we've now found evidence of possible human-caused pollution that's bad enough to have pathological impacts on fish," said Michael Kent, co-author of the new study, in a news release. "Deep in the ocean one might have thought that the level of contamination and its biological impact would be less. That may not be the case. The pathological changes we're seeing are clearly the type associated with exposure to toxins and carcinogens."

Few health surveys of this type have been conducted on the fish living on the continental slopes. In this latest study, the researchers examined the black scabbardfish, orange roughy, greater forkbeard and several other less well-known species. The scientists found a wide range of degenerative and inflammatory lesions on the fish that indicated a host response to pathogens, as well as natural cell turnover.

Some of these fish have the capacity to live to be 100 years old. This longevity means that the fish have the capacity to bioaccumulate toxins, which could be a significant health issue. In fact, organic pollutants in these species may be 10 to 17 times higher than those found in fish from the continental shelf.

The findings are published in the journal Marine Environmental Research.

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