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Assessment of the fish tumor beneficial use impairment in brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) at selected Great Lakes Areas of Concern

June 13, 2014

A total of 878 adult Brown Bullhead were collected at 11 sites within the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario drainages from 2011 to 2013. The sites included seven Areas of Concern (AOC; 670 individuals), one delisted AOC (50 individuals) and three non-AOC sites (158 individuals) used as reference sites. These fish were used to assess the “fish tumor or other deformities” beneficial use impairment. Fish were anesthetized, weighed, measured and any external abnormalities documented and removed. Abnormal orocutaneous and barbel tissue, as well as five to eight pieces of liver, were preserved for histopathological analyses. Otoliths were removed and used for age analyses. Visible external abnormalities included reddened (raised or eroded), melanistic areas and raised growths on lips, body surface, fins and barbels. Microscopically, these raised growths included papilloma, squamous cell carcinoma, osteoma and osteosarcoma. Proliferative lesions of the liver included bile duct hyperplasia, foci of cellular alteration, bile duct (cholangioma, cholangiocarcinoma) and hepatocellular (adenoma, hepatic cell carcinoma) neoplasia. The two reference sites (Long Point Inner Bay, Conneaut Creek), at which 30 or more bullhead were collected had a skin tumor prevalence of 10% or less and liver tumor prevalence of 4% or less. Presque Isle Bay, recently delisted, had a similar liver tumor prevalence (4%) and slightly higher prevalence (12%) of skin tumors. The prevalence of skin neoplasms was 15% or less at sites in the Black River, Cuyahoga River and Maumee AOCs, while more than 20% of the bullheads from the Rochester Embayment, Niagara River, Detroit River and Ashtabula River AOCs had skin tumors. The prevalence of liver tumors was greater than 4% at all AOC sites except the Old Channel site at the Cuyahoga River AOC, Wolf Creek within the Maumee AOC and the upper and lower sites within the Niagara River AOC.