In a conference call hosted by the CBF for reporters, John Arway, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, stated:
“I would like to thank and commend Will Baker and CBF for taking on the challenge of explaining the significance of the smallmouth bass fish kills in Bay tributaries and how they relate to the overall Bay problem. Tom Pelton does an excellent job painting the picture of the problems using his words and those of expert fisheries scientists on this serious issue.
“Pennsylvania anglers and our fisheries staff first saw diseased young-of-year (YOY) smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River in 2005. Since then we have worked with federal and state researchers to define the most obvious stressors that are responsible for causing the disease symptoms in both YOY and adult smallmouth bass. The disease has caused the population to collapse in the section of river from Sunbury to Maryland.
“Unprecedented algae blooms now occur in our river from east shore to west shore at the very footsteps of our capital city. It is not coincidental that the timing of these algae blooms occur when our smallmouth fry are most vulnerable to infection. These blooms are driven by increased dissolved phosphorous concentrations but we continue to refuse to prepare a plan to find the sources and causes of these nutrients and work on solutions to fix our sick river. We have also found black spots on adult fish, high incidence of intersex conditions, papillomas, sores and lesions, exotic viruses, bacteria, parasites and other invasive species, some of which have never been seen in our rivers before.
“This perfect storm of conditions has required us to restrict fishing in Pennsylvania waters in hope that we can work together to get our world-class smallmouth fishery back to where it was before 2005. Our fish are sick, our anglers are mad and my board and I, protectors of our fishery, are frustrated.
“I applaud our Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for recently recognizing the need to direct additional funding to studying the river’s problems. However, we cannot continue to study and research the problems until our last bass dies. We need to prepare a plan much like we have done for the Bay but with the river and our smallmouth fishery as the target goal. We need Environmental Protection Agency leadership to drive the issues since it is a regional problem of national significance.
“The report does an excellent job of explaining what we need to do next and why we need to act quickly with the information we already have. It now becomes our duty to collectively implement the report’s recommendations since our bass, and our grandchildren who will fish for them, are depending on us to fix the problem.”