Even though we already have sophisticated test instruments to assess levels of environmental pollution but can a “coughing fish” provide a better and faster water quality assessment?
By: Ringo Bones
Environmentalists had always been looking for ways to monitor water pollution are turning for help to creatures that have a vested interest in clean water – as in fishes. French technicians began the trend in 1973; they checked the waters of the Oise River by observing one peculiar kind of fish behavior: trout that are swimming upstream reverse their direction upon encountering pollution. Back in April 1974, scientists of the US Environmental Protection Agency announced the discovery of another potentially useful piscatorial reaction in the behavior of bluefish, sunfish, flathead minnows, trout and salmon.
The researchers had found out that the fish began to cough more frequently when concentrations of mercury and copper became great enough to interfere with growth and reproduction. Aquatic biologist Robert Drummond, who directed the study, suggested that monitoring devices could be installed in waters near industrial and waste-treatment plants to record fish coughing and sounds an alarm if there were any sudden increase. Environmentalists would thus be warned that a plant in the vicinity was releasing a potentially harmful effluent into the water and would be able to act immediately to halt the discharge.