Ayer Creek becomes first Coastal Bays tributary with Pfiesteria confirmed; lesioned menhaden widespread in Chesapeake Bay
August 4, 2000
This is the fourth biweekly report for 2000.
Nanticoke River: A small number of ulcerated menhaden were recorded from two samples collected from the Nanticoke River on July 19. Routine water monitoring results were negative for Pfiesteria in the region at this time. Additional sampling on July 31 in the Nanticoke watershed found fish with lesions, mostly white perch, in Chicone Creek and sampling on August 1 found ulcerated menhaden (8 of 26; 31%) on Wetipquin Creek. Water samples collected at all these sites have been negative for Pfiesteria except for one sample collected at Wetipquin Creek on August 1. Results from North Carolina State University indicate low densities of Pfiesteria-like cells in this sample. This site will be revisited on August 4.
Fishing Bay: Lesioned menhaden were captured at two sites in the Fishing Bay watershed during routine sampling on August 2. Approximately 40% of 500 menhaden captured at Pokata Creek and Elliots Island Rd were found to have lesions. Water samples indicated the presence of Pfiesteria at moderate levels by both Dr. Oldach's probe and North Carolina State University. Moderate levels of an organism which may be Pfiesteria were also identified in samples collected on the western shore of Fishing Bay associated with a low number of lesioned menhaden. The Pokata Creek site will be revisited on August 4th.
Pocomoke River: On the Pocomoke River, no menhaden have been captured during two sampling events since July 13th but other fish species captured appeared healthy. The area is scheduled to be sampled again on August 8th.
Cambridge Creek: A high percentage of lesioned menhaden were collected in Cambridge Creek (a tributary of the Choptank River) on August 3, and gulls were observed feeding on the fish in the area. Water samples were collected for Pfiesteria analysis and results are pending.
Baywide: More than 132,000 fish have been examined during the fish health monitoring program through the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. Overall percentage of fish observed with anomalies (sores, ulcers, lesions, tumors, etc.) remains below 1% with local summer season events having >1% affected fish described previously in this and earlier reports.
A reminder - please report fish kills, sick fish or fish with lesions to the Maryland Fish Health Hotline at 1-888-584-3110.
Routine Pfiesteria sampling.
Weather, Water Flow and Water Quality
Water quality conditions in Ayer Creek
and the Nanticoke River
in the areas where fish with anomalies have recently been found show water temperatures tending to be lower this year versus 1998 and 1999. Salinity levels at monitoring sites have been declining in the past month and both conditions would be related to the recent stretch of cloudy and rainy weather.
Continuous water quality monitoring stations are in place through the EMPACT program (Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Teaching) at three sites on the Pocomoke River in the region of the 1997 fish kill; a fourth station is now up and running on the Chicamacomico River where fish health events have been recorded in previous years. River conditions for the Shelltown area during the first half of July show water temperatures heating up to near 30 oC (about 86 Fo); dissolved oxygen levels were slowly declining during mid-July at all three Pocomoke sites (Shelltown, Cedar Hall Wharf and Rehobeth) to levels typically considered stressful for warm water fish (below 5 mg/L). Oxygen conditions upstream of Shelltown have declined to severely low levels (around 3 mg/L) versus the Shelltown station (just below 5 mg/L). This pattern in water quality has been observed since 1997 and may have implications for keeping menhaden and other species of fish in the lower river by reducing access to these upstream areas.
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