Prevalence of tumors in fish from Lake Memphremagog sparks public discussion

in Newport/News/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Raised black lesions observed in 30 percent of the brown bullhead collected from two sites in Lake Memphremagog from 2014 through 2017 have been identified microscopically as malignant melanoma.

This cancer occurrence cluster is raising questions about the cause of the tumors and the implications for the long-term health of fish populations.

Studies suggest that tumor development is likely associated with multiple environmental and genetic factors, and study designs are being developed to test these hypotheses.

Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Secretary Julie Moore is going to hold a public discussion on Tuesday, March 17, from 4 to 5 p.m. to discuss a variety of environmental topics, including a discussion on the Lake Memphremagog brown bullhead lesion investigation.

“Lake ecosystems are complex,” said Secretary Moore. “The health of the fish in a lake is an important indicator of the overall condition of the waterbody. When new or novel problems surface, like the discovery of a high incidence of brown bullhead lesions in the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog, the Agency turns to its team of scientists to investigate possible causes and ultimately, identify solutions.”

At the meeting, Rick Levey, an environmental scientist with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and Pete Emerson, a fisheries biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, will provide more information about the investigation.

Together, the two departments surveyed Lake Memphremagog’s South Bay, Hospital Cove and Derby Bay throughout 2014-2018.

The prevalence of lesions and tumors in wild fish has been used as an indicator of environmental quality for many decades.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, Department of Environmental Conservation, and USGS National Fish Health Laboratory researchers have been working together to determine the causation of these fish lesions.

The results of this work will be presented at the meeting.

After an initial overview of the health of brown bullhead, Secretary Moore will open the floor to hear thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns from attendees.

The gathering will be held in the Dewey Building at 1 National Life Drive in Montpelier March 17, from 4:00 to 5:00 pm.

For those not able to make it in person, a Facebook Live stream will be available at https://www.facebook.com/VTANR/

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