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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2000 Jul;46(3):334-41.

Disease and gill lesions in yellow perch (Perca flavescens) exposed to oil sands mining-associated waters.

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  • 1New Zealand Forest Research Institute, Sala Street, Rotorua, New Zealand.


Adult yellow perch were stocked into experimental ponds designed to test the biological effects of aquatic reclamation alternatives currently being pursued by the oil sands mining industry. Water-quality characteristics of oil sands-influenced water in the experimental ponds included increased salinity and elevated trace organics associated with raw oil sands (bitumen). After 3 and 10 months of exposure to affected waters, perch gross pathologies including severe fin erosion and virally induced tumors were observed in exposed individuals. Gill histopathology revealed large aneurysms accompanied by a proliferation of chloride and epithelial cells in the interlamellar spaces. Gill pathologies were not paralleled by a decrease in plasma sodium, calcium, or chloride. The frequencies of gross pathologies and gill changes were correlated to the concentrations of the oil sands-related compounds. As inorganic and organic compounds associated with oil sands activities are highly intercorrelated, and the observed lesions and changes are not diagnostic of particular toxicants, it was not possible to isolate the causative chemical factor(s) responsible. The incidence of observed lesions and gill pathologies could not be conclusively linked to increased mortality rates observed in the exposed populations. Evidence of recovery in the pathologies was observed between 3 and 10 months of exposure, coincident with a stabilization in population numbers.

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