A study finished earlier this year found fish off the Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys are testing positive for several pharmaceutical drugs as human wastewater makes its way out into the ocean.
Among the drugs found in the fish populations by Florida International University and nonprofit scientists since 2018 were antidepressants, antibiotics, pain relievers, and prostate medications.
“These findings are truly alarming,” stated lead researcher Jennifer Rehage, a coastal and fish ecologist and associate professor at the FIU Institute of Environment.
“Pharmaceuticals are an invisible threat, unlike algal blooms or turbid waters. Yet these results tell us that they are a formidable threat to our fisheries, and highlight the pressing need to address our longstanding wastewater infrastructure issues.”
The FIU researchers and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, a conservation group focused on preserving bonefish and tarpon populations and habitats, collected the contaminated samples from 93 bonefish and tarpon in the area.
The group found each bonefish and tarpon had an average of seven drugs in its system, with one bonefish tallying in a whopping 17 different drugs in its blood and tissues.
“Coastal fisheries face increasing threats associated with human-based contaminants,” BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie said.
“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 support over 88,500 jobs.”
The results from the Florida coast study come three years after a similar one conducted in Australia found that fluoxetine disrupts the foraging behavior of the eastern mosquitofish, according to the Daily Mail.