Assessing the biological status of fish in a river receiving pulp and paper mill effluents

T G Kovacs, Martel, R H Voss
Environmental Pollution 2002, 118 (1): 123-40
This study compared the use of sentinel species- and community-based field approaches for assessing the biological status of fish living in a river receiving pulp and paper mill effluents. Three approaches were compared. Two approaches used sentinel species. One of these involved an internal/external examination of the fish that leads to the calculation of a fish health assessment index (HAI) and the other involved biochemical measurements of hepatic mixed function oxidase (MFO) activity and plasma steroid levels. The third approach characterized the fish community structure according to an index of biotic integrity (IBI). The comparison focused on how the methods respond to the hypothesis that recent process modifications/effluent treatment changes, resulting in demonstrable improvements in effluent quality, have beneficial effects on fish. Neither of the approaches using sentinel fish indicated clear mill-related influences either before or after the process modifications/effluent treatment changes. There was no evidence of depressed plasma steroids and increased MFO activity in fish frequently associated with mill effluent exposure in previous studies. While the HAI was higher at stations downstream from two mills, this could not be linked to effluent exposure alone. In contrast, the study of community structure showed a substantial improvement in fish assemblages at all the mill sites.

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