Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From Royal Gazette: Expert warns against eating sickly fish

Expert warns against eating sickly fish


By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

Fish Pathologist Dr. Wolfgang Vogelbein at a press conference about recent fish die-offs.
Photo: Mark Tatem

An overseas fish expert yesterday called the recent fish die-off concerning.

But he urged people to use common sense when it came to eating fish, saying the majority of those caught are safe.

Wolfgang Vogelbein is a highly regarded fish pathologist and professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the College of William and Mary.

Dr. Vogelbein said: "It's always the big question, 'are the fish safe to eat?' I think common sense should be used. People who fish know what a healthy fish looks like.

"Those are safe to eat. But a fish which has ulcers on it [such as a lack of scales and blood on the skin] should not be."

He added that he enjoyed rockfish for lunch yesterday.

But he said the die-off was concerning as it shed light on a variety of environmental factors, as well an infection, that appeared to be causing the die-off.

Dr. Vogelbein has been on the Island since Friday collecting samples of the dead fish which he will study in his US laboratory.

The study, and its findings, may take years to complete as there are a variety of factors which must be investigated.

He said there seemed to be environmental factors leading to the death of the fish but added: "Some of the fish are showing skin ulcers and some of the fish are also showing signs of infections in their gills.

"There appears to be an organism playing a role. We have been able to isolate some bacterial organism."

Dr. Vogelbein also said that a weakened immune system due to high water temperatures could be causing fish to react negatively to bacteria regularly found in the ocean.

Dr. Fred Mind, the Government's Director of Environmental Protection, added that we appear to be at the tail end of the die off and only one area on the South Shore continues to see a small amount of fishing being impacted.

He added that working with Dr. Vogelbein had been a great "learning process" and they were already setting up new ways to collect data and deal with the issue if it happens again.

Unfortunately, there were no reports of Lionfish in the die off. Lionfish are a dangerous predator which are threatening the ecosystem of Bermuda's reefs and fisheries.

Look out for this months' Green Pages, publishing on Thursday, to learn how the Government's Marine Resource Section is responding to the global movement of sustainable fishing.