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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Jan 15;37(2):223-8.

Effects of historic PCB exposures on the reproductive success of the Hudson River striped bass population.

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  • 1LWB Environmental Services, Inc., 105 Wesley Lane, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830, USA.


Scientists and regulatory agencies have expressed concern that exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) might be contributing to reductions in the abundance of fish populations exposed to these chemicals. The specific effects of concern involve impairment of fish reproduction, including both reduced egg production and decreased viability of eggs and larvae. We tested hypotheses concerning the effects of PCBs on fish populations using long-term data sets available for the striped bass population of the Hudson River, NY, a population that has long been a subject of regulatory concern because of potential effects of PCB exposures. The data sets examined include both measurements of PCB concentrations in adult female striped bass over the period from 1976 through 1997 and estimates of the numbers of striped bass eggs, larvae, and juveniles produced annually during this same period. We found strong correlations between estimates of the abundance of spawners and the number of eggs and larvae produced by those spawners and also between independent estimates of year-class strength derived from different sampling programs. However, we found no relationships between PCB exposure and any measure of striped bass abundance or reproduction. Although inconsistent with the expected effects of PCB exposures, trends in all measures of striped bass abundance and reproductive success were consistent with the expected effects of striped bass harvest restrictions that were imposed during the 1980s. Our results demonstrate a need for caution in inferring risks to populations in nature from effects observed in laboratory studies.

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