State official was on boat as cancerous fish was hauled in

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 6, 2015 3:11 AM

Photo by Fish and Boat Commission

(Harrisburg) -- By his count, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway has seen tens of thousands of fish.

But a routine fishing trip on the Susquehanna River last November ended with a visit to a state fish pathologist.

"It was pretty gross looking and it was pretty obvious it was extremely abnormal because neither my friend or I had ever seen anything like that," says Arway.

It was a smallmouth bass with a cancer tumor that overwhelms its bottom lip.

Arway says he's worried about how it was formed.

"A cancerous tumor like this has to grow very quickly cause these fish don't live very long. It's not like they're human where they live 80-90 years, where some environmental exposure can take a long time," he adds.

Arway says the commission has seen young smallmouth bass fish kills in the Susquehanna every year since 2005.

"This is a wake up call for I think all of us that are studying the river and also care about the river and its fishery and one of the things we need to do is we need to think about taking action sooner 
Arway says there's been a kill-off of young smallmouth bass every year since 2005 because of conditions in the river," says Arway.

The agency has called for designating the river as impaired.

Researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection have said not enough data exists to support such a move.

He says it's especially concerning because the cancer had to develop quickly in the young fish.

D.E.P. Acting Secretary John Quigley's statement:

"We continue to work in partnership with PFBC to use a science-based approach to determining the causes of impacts to fish health in the Susquehanna. Our biological studies include assessments of fish, aquatic insects, mussels, and algae. Science will guide all of our work in assessing the overall health of the river."

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