Steelhead trout have been dying as they make their way to the Salmon River in Oswego County from Lake Ontario. Apparently, the cause behind the death is a thiamine, or vitamin B, deficiency present in the fish.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner, Joe Martens, issued a statement about the Salmon River issues on Wednesday. He explained the importance of the steelhead as well as their hope to continue putting forth an effort to help the fish.
“Lake Ontario steelhead are an important component of Lake Ontario’s sport fishery and DEC is deeply concerned about reports of steelhead stress and mortality in the Salmon River and other Lake Ontario tributaries. Steelhead provide high-quality sport fisheries in the open lake and are especially sought after by anglers who fish in tributaries from fall through spring. DEC staff will continue to work closely with federal agencies, Cornell University and other stakeholders to identify the cause of the current situation and strategies to ensure a robust steelhead population.”
The first warning signs seen in the Salmon River were in November. That’s when fishermen began to report that the trout were swimming erratically.
Vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin that helps promote brain function, a working nervous system and is also involved in keeping blood healthy. For humans, the result of a deficiency in vitamin B is that they become easily exhausted. Sometimes, they may even have trouble breathing. For fish migrating from Lake Ontario to the Salmon River, the effects are much worse.
The DEC is reporting that the Salmon River steelhead are showing signs of exhaustion and stress, which is making the migration much more difficult and leading to a higher mortality rate.
The cause for the Salmon River trout suddenly having issues with vitamin B is yet to be found by the DEC. However, it’s possible that the main food source may be to blame. Alewife is a baitfish that exists in Lake Ontario. They provide trout with thiaminase, the enzyme that aids in breaking down thiamine.
To try and combat the vitamin B issue, the Salmon River Hatchery and DEC’s Rome Fish Disease Control Unit has been injecting adult steelhead trout returning to the Salmon River Hatchery with B1. The hope is that the thiamine shot will aid the trout in remaining healthy enough to reproduce during the spring.
The DEC is getting help from other agencies, as well as academia, to try and pin down the exact cause of the deficiency.
[Image courtesy of Flickr]