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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 381:1-15 (2009)  -  DOI:

Site-specific disease profiles in fish and their use in environmental monitoring

G. D. Stentiford*, J. P. Bignell, B. P. Lyons, S. W. Feist

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Weymouth Laboratory, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UB, UK

ABSTRACT: Clinical fish disease and liver pathology are high-level indicators of ecosystem health. Internationally agreed protocols for their measurement have allowed for the comparison of datasets that transcend international marine boundaries and have promoted the collection of quality assured data by several countries bordering the northeast Atlantic and associated seas. Here, grossly visible diseases and liver lesions (including tumours) were recorded between 2002 and 2006 from UK Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme sites in the Irish and North Seas and in the English Channel. Diagnosis followed protocols developed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Biological Effects Quality Assurance in Monitoring Programmes. Multivariate data analysis revealed a stable disease profile at most sites sampled. Sites with the highest levels of grossly visible diseases and liver lesions consistently grouped together within a given year, and distinctly from those sites displaying a lower prevalence of disease. Between-year analyses for these sites demonstrated the repetitive nature of these patterns, suggesting a relatively consistent disease profile between years, even at open ocean sites. Assessment of prevalence for the different diseases allowed for development of a grading system that assigned relative harm scores for populations existing at a particular site. Grading of harm scores into site types may provide an assessment tool for managers to identify sites of concern and to cross-correlate disease with potential causal factors. The use of disease data in marine environment status monitoring is discussed.

KEY WORDS: Epidemiology · Grossly visible fish diseases · Histopathology · Liver pathology · Monitoring · Neoplasia · Quality assurance

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Cite this article as: Stentiford GD, Bignell JP, Lyons BP, Feist SW (2009) Site-specific disease profiles in fish and their use in environmental monitoring. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 381:1-15.

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