The percentage of splenic tissue occupied by macrophage aggregates and hepatosomatic index (HSI) were evaluated in rock bass Ambloplites rupestris from Burlington Harbor, Vermont. In 1992, fish collected from the inner Burlington Harbor area had a significantly greater percentage of splenic tissue occupied by macrophage aggregates and greater HSI than did fish from reference sites. These biomarkers often are correlated with exposure to various contaminants (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and some heavy metals, which were found in Burlington Harbor sediments during surveys in 1990 and 1991). Contaminants are believed to have entered Burlington Harbor through the city's main sewage treatment plant, which discharged effluent into the harbor for many years. In 1994, the city completed a significant upgrade of this treatment plant, which included an extension of the effluent pipe beyond the inner harbor area. In 1999, rock bass were again collected from Burlington Harbor as an index of whether there was any improvement in environmental quality. Our data showed a significantly lower percentage of splenic tissue occupied by macrophage aggregates and significantly lower HSI among nine age-4 rock bass in 1999 than among six age-4 rock bass in 1992. The significant changes in these biomarkers suggest decreased exposure to contaminants. Our study reinforces the value of macrophage aggregates and HSI as biomarkers of environmental contamination, and the correlation with remedial action shows their potential utility in documenting improvements in environmental conditions. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2005.
Additional publication details
Using fish biomarkers to monitor improvements in environmental quality