This study sought to determine whether wild white sturgeon from the Columbia River (Oregon) were exhibiting signs of reproductive endocrine disruption. Fish were sampled in the free-flowing portion of the river (where the population is experiencing reproductive success) and from three reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams (where fish have reduced reproductive success). All of the 18 pesticides and almost all of the 28 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that were analyzed in livers and gonads were detected in at least some of the tissue samples. Metabolites of p,p???-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) [p,p???-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and p,p???-1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDD)] were consistently found at relatively high levels in fish. Some males and immature females showed elevated plasma vitellogenin; however, concentrations were not correlated with any of the pesticides or PCBs analyzed. Negative correlations were found between a number of physiologic parameters and tissue burdens of toxicants. Plasma triglycerides and condition factor were negatively correlated with total DDT (DDD + DDE + DDT), total pesticides (all pesticides detected - total DDT), and PCBs. In males, plasma androgens and gonad size were negatively correlated with total DDT, total pesticides, and PCBs. Fish residing in the reservoir behind the oldest dam had the highest contaminant loads and incidence of gonadal abnormalities, and the lowest triglycerides, condition factor, gonad size, and plasma androgens. These data suggest that endocrine-disrupting chemicals may be accumulating behind dams over time. Overall, results of this study indicate that exposure to environmental contaminants may be affecting both growth and reproductive physiology of sturgeon in some areas of the Columbia River.
Additional publication details
Evidence of detrimental effects of environmental contaminants on growth and reproductive physiology of white sturgeon in impounded areas of the Columbia River