The objective of this study was to describe and compare several reproductive parameters for Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) inhabiting the St. Johns River and exposed to different types and/or degrees of contamination. Welaka was selected as the reference site in this study because of its low urban and agricultural development, Palatka is in close proximity to a paper mill plant, the Green Cove site is influenced by marine shipping activities and Julington Creek site receives discharges of domestic wastewater and storm water runoff from recreational boating marinas. For this study, bass were sampled both prior to (September 1996) and during the spawning season (February 1997). In order to characterize chemical exposure, bass livers were analyzed for up to 90 trace organics and 11 trace metal contaminants. Reproductive parameters measured included gonadosomatic index (GSI), histological evaluation of gonads and plasma concentrations of vitellogenin (VTG), 17??-estradiol (E2) and 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT). In general, the sum of organic chemicals was highest in livers from Palatka bass and bass from Green Cove and Julington Creek had higher hepatic concentrations of low molecular polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls when compared to fish from Welaka. Metals were more variable across sites, with highest mean concentrations found in bass from either Julington Creek (Ag, As, Cr, Cu, Zn) or Welaka (Cd, Hg, Pb, Se, Tn). Female bass from Palatka and Green Cove had lower concentrations of E2, VTG and lower GSI in relation to Welaka. Males from Palatka and Green Cove showed comparable declines in 11-KT in relation to males from Julington Creek and GSI were decreased only in Palatka males. These results indicate a geographical trend in reproductive effects, with changes being most pronounced at the site closest to the paper mill (Palatka) and decreasing as the St. Johns River flows downstream. Since reproductive alterations were most evident in bass sampled from the site closest to the paper mill discharge, it is possible that exposure to these effluents might explain at least some of the results reported here. However, the presence of reproductive alterations in fish sampled at a considerable distance from the mill discharge (Green Cove, 40 km) would suggest exposure to chemicals released from sources other than the paper mill plant. It is clear that additional studies are needed to evaluate the potential impact of these reproductive changes in populations of Florida largemouth bass inhabiting the St. Johns River. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
An evaluation of biomarkers of reproductive function and potential contaminant effects in Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) sampled from the St. Johns River