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Puffer fish Dying Across State

Community Contributed

By Arleone Dibben-Young

 A mysterious disease is killing striped and porcupine puffer fish. Dr. Thierry Work with the U.S. Geological Survey has received at least 100 reports of dead puffer fish from across the state in the last six months. The sick and dying puffer fish have had lesions on the skin, but what’s been found on the inside has researchers alarmed.

“We’re seeing things like enlarged livers and enlarged swim bladders, which is the organ that allows puffer fish to float,” Work said. His staff has been able to analyze only 14 sick puffer fish so far and they’re baffled as to what is killing them, but are leaning towards a virus or toxicosis.

“We really need to sort out what it is that’s killing them. Once we sort out the cause, we can decide if it can affect other fish or not,” said Work. “You’ll see these fish either floating and can’t submerge and they just don’t look right, or if they’re on the beach, their gills will be moving a little bit.”
“As long as there’s a little bit of movement in those fish, they’re super fresh and we can use them. If they’ve been on the beach a while, they’re too decomposed and we can’t do lab testing with them.”

You can help by reporting all observations of dead or dying puffer fish, and if you spot a freshly dead puffer fish place it on ice. Call Arleone at 553-5992 to ship to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

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