A cancer-stricken smallmouth bass was caught from the Susquehanna River near Duncannon last November, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). The discovery has now raised concerns about the health of the fish in the river.
Laboratory tests confirmed that the fish did suffer from a malignant tumor, although the PFBC has said that it is an extremely rare occurrence.
John Arway, executive director of the PFBC, said that while the fish was the only one found to have the condition, it is enough evidence to prove that the river is impaired, and that the safety of the local fish is affected.
"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," the PFBC official said. "The weight of evidence continues to build a case that we need to take some action on behalf of the fish."
Arway argued that designating the Susquehanna River as impaired is very important in order to start its restoration. He said that they have been aware of the river's situation ever since they discovered lesions on the smallmouth bass in 2005. The case of the cancer-stricken fish provides enough grounds for their call to declare the impairment.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), however, prefers to conduct further research first before labeling the Susquehanna River as impaired.
In an email sent to the Daily Item, DEP spokesperson Amanda Witman explained that the agency extends its cooperation to the PFBC in following a scientific approach to determine the current state of the fish in the Susquehanna. She said that the DEP has begun assessing the fish, algae, mussels and aquatic insects found in the river.
Witman asserted that science will guide all of the agency's work in studying the situation of the Susquehanna.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has stated that fish with carcinoma have yet to prove any threat to human health. As a precaution, however, the agency is discouraging the public from eating fish that have visible signs of lesions and sores.