The Fish Story

When Tilapia and Crabs Are Stoned, It’s Marijuana and Prozac to Blame

By JAY MANN | Oct 31, 2017

As column doorbusters this week, I’m offering reports of Lebanese tilapia being fed Middle East cannabis oil, followed by Portlandia crabs so cranked up on the antidepressant Prozac that they choose to take on predators instead of hiding from them.

Hey, it’s getting harder and harder to hold your attention in here.

So, researchers in Lebanon were apparently bummed out over the way locally-farmed tilapia are routinely being treated – packed like sardines into small ponds, for life. Such insanely cramped aquaculture quarters are keeping the farmed fish in a constant state of extreme, often debilitating stress.

The concern of the researchers was far from PETA-ish in temperament. They focused on the strained biomasses becoming highly prone to infections and diseases. Profit-wise, freaked-out fish grow more slowly.

It came down to somehow calming down the aquaculture crop.

Per a Seafood News article titled “Can Marijuana Reduce Stress in Farmed Fish?” by Amanda Buckle, “The researchers used cannabis sativa, a plant that ‘produces an oil with psychoactive and stress reduction effects,’ in a special feed blend for tilapia in the hopes of seeing improvement, as well as growth.”

special blend, eh? I guess that makes sense, considering how long it might take to teach the tilapia to use a hookah.

I also follow their thinking regarding cannabis oil-assisted growth. When those munchies kick in, things can get fat fast.

The research findings, published in the Aquaculture Research journal, will hardly spark a rush toward tilapia farming in, say, Denver. The findings were, at best, nonconclusive.

It’s unknown if the tilapia failed to become suitably stoned or if researchers second-handedly absorbed so much cannabis oil that the fish could have formed into a conga line and danced on the surface of the ponds without the researchers really giving it much thought.

“You think all that dancing means anything, Faruk?”

“Nah.”

While the Lebanese researchers lethargically head back to the drawing board, I’ve remained intrigued. Upon further research on drugged fish, I was drawn to an article in livescience.com. It was titled, “Prozac Puts Crabs in a Mood to Take Deadly Risks” by Dan Robitzski.

The story comes out of Oregon, where researchers in Portland University have been looking into the effects of fluoxetine hydrochloride, trade name Prozac, on local bayshore crabs.

On headlines alone, I figured chronically competitive Americans weren’t going to be one-upped by Lebanese researchers and their marijuana-oiled tilapia. They began pushing Prozac on captive crustaceans.

However, upon reading details of the Prozac-versus-crabs study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, it became apparent that this research was far more consequential than merely helping any crabs with emotional issues. It struck close to home. Read on.

Unlike the passive response of tilapia to pot, Prozac quickly kicked in with the experimental crabs – in an odd and unexpected way. When exposed to even low levels of the famed depression fighter, the crabs unadvisedly stopped hiding from predators. Not only did they stop hiding from them but they also started getting confrontational with the deadly foes.

“Hey, fish-breath. Yo momma wears combat boots.”

“Why you little …!”

When not insulting passing predators, the in-lab crabs also began getting overly snappy with one another, resorting to brutal in-fighting and enhanced territorial aggression.

Now, one might ask: What does Prozac-ing crabs in laboratory tanks have to do with, well, anything? Enter the study titled “Prozac in the water: Chronic fluoxetine exposure and predation risk interact to shape behaviors in an estuarine crab.”

The study’s lead researcher, Elise Granek, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Management at Portland State University, offers a compelling reason to dose bayshore crabs with fluoxetine hydrochloride. In defense of her research effort – which I guess qualifies as a form of Prozac defense – Granek sees life imitating her lab. As proof: The dosages she administered to captive crabs was, in fact, modest when compared to the amounts of Prozac leaking/leaching into marine ecosystems in North America.

Amazingly, the amount of Prozac found in some marine waters can exceed the concentrations within the body of a person taking the drug.

What might this mean to marine life down below?

“The changes we observed in their behaviors may mean that crabs living in harbors and estuaries contaminated with fluoxetine are at greater risk of predation and mortality,” said Granek.

Regarding the insidious arrival of OTC medications and prescription pharmaceuticals in the marine environment, a write-up in YaleEnvironment360, by Sonia Shah, says, “In recent years, scientists have detected trace amounts of more than 150 different human and veterinary medicines in environments as far afield as the Arctic. Eighty percent of the U.S.’s streams and nearly a quarter of the nation’s groundwater sampled by the United States Geological Survey has been found to be contaminated with a variety of medications.”

In case you’re wondering, the medications reach the water after being passed through our bodies. Thereafter, the medications pass through waste treatment facilities virtually intact.

I’m obviously just touching on the matter of marine life getting drugged by humanity’s outflow. It’s a huge issue – and worthy of future reports.

I will confidently assert that the odds of jumping in the water and coming out drugged up every which way but loose, via absorption, is a stretch … for now. But, marine life sucking in the drugs, day in and day out?

There is seemingly hope on the Prozac-ed horizon, via something called “green pharmacy,” whereby Big Pharm swears to hell and back it’s looking into ways to stem the flow of drugs into places they shouldn’t go, like our angling waters.

Whadda you mean that offers about as much assurance as a spray-on shark repellent?

DOUBLE CREEK DREDGE IS UNDERWAY: Great Lakes dredging has already begun to suck sand on the west end of Double Creek Channel, over near Waretown.

While this $8.7 million project is good news in the long haul, it will demand some careful piloting and avoidance behavior for those mariners keeping vessels in the water for the fall bass run.

The NJDEP warns: “The public is advised to be aware of, and stay alert to the pipeline, buoys, dredge and other equipment during this time. NJDOT asks that no one approach the pipeline, dredge or any related project equipment under any circumstances, whether or not active dredging operations are observed.

“Pipelines can often be difficult to see on the water, and boaters should proceed through dredging maintenance and construction zones with the utmost caution. No-wake speed should be observed in active work zones throughout the project duration.”

Also, “Channel use may be limited where the dredge is in operation and where the pipeline is carrying dredged material to its placement locations. Channel closures are not expected, although this is subject to change.”

I was asked about the possible impact the dredging will have on winter flounder, now moving into the bay. I’m not familiar with how this type of dredging hits the bottom/benthic life. I do know the progress of a bottom-sucking dredge pipe isn’t all that fast. More mobile creatures, like fish and maybe even crabs, should easily be able to outswim the pipe. As to sedentary creatures, like clams, there is a filter at the end of the dredge pipe to limit how much marine life gets sucked in for a pipeline ride.

As to which creatures will be forced to take the deadly trip through the tubes, that will be most noticeable in the 14-acre Oyster Creek Confined Disposal Facility in Waretown.

While I’ll try to get a look at this disposal facility, via media means, it’s not likely I’ll be able to get a close-up view of the dredge materials, due to safety concerns. I might need to get some ninja looks, using scopes and such.

This brings up a far more viewable aspect of the project’s disposal plans. Per NJDOT: “The pipeline will be used to pump sand to the Barnegat Borough Beach near the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.”

The above is a tad confusing. Authorities have told me that some dredge materials are going to be used to fill in the heavily eroded areas adjacent to the state park’s concrete deck/walkway, just east of Barney. Technically speaking, I don’t think that area fully fits the description of “the Barnegat Borough Beach.” Maybe there’s some sort of dual ownership/user-ship of that famed stretch of land.

Anyway, there won’t be much doubt about any organic content when that “sand” is being placed thereabouts.

I’m toying a bit with the word “sand” because I’m fully familiar with the bottom material around, say, the borough’s boat launch and related nearby channels. It’s far from sugar sand. I’m not being critical, mind you. I fully support the project. Simply, things could get a little ripe when said “sand” heats up next spring. Remember, Barnegat Light State Park is the most visited park in the state – excluding NJ’s Liberty State Park, which is more of a two-state-owned attraction.

I have no insights on how far east, along the South Jetty, the dredge materials will be placed. In fact, I’ll bet it’s impossible to predict, even for the experts. Call it an open-ended fill.

PLOVER HEAVEN: The dredge fill adjacent to the South Jetty should make life utterly grand for the 2018 showing of nesting piping plovers in the park. Those little buggers go gaga over freshly lain sandy materials. I’ll guarantee a record-breaking showing of the rare birds if the work gets completed early enough, which it should, knowing the 7-day-a-week work ethic of speedy Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, which is working during daylight hours, seven days a week.

To be sure, there is always the looming “weather permitting” factor of any dredge project. In the case of Double Creek channel, even fair-weather west winds can really wrack that waterway.

Here’s to a mild, light-wind, storm-free winter/spring. And I wonder why snow people hate me.

DON’T FORGET: The Maximilian Foundation’s 3rd Annual All-Boat Tournament & Fish Fry is this Saturday. See themaximilianfoundation.org, under “Events.”

The Striped Bass Boat Tournament & Fish Fry is hosted by Manahawkin Elks Lodge 2340, at 520 Hilliard Blvd., Manahawkin.

Prize money includes: 1st Place, $2,000; 2nd Place, $1,000; 3rd Place, $500 (based on 25 boats).

The tourney raises funds for the organization, which focuses on drug education … to inform children of the consequences of doing heroin as well as trying to identify children who are the most susceptible to trying drugs.

RUNDOWN: It’s an anniversary most folks would rather not celebrate. It’s the fifth anniversary of our unwanted marrying into Superstorm Sandy, a shotgun wedding from which there was no easy divorce. Some folks are still paying an odd form of matrimony to her. At the same time, many have taken the “LBI Strong” route and now somewhat celebrate their post-Sandy perseverance from within mighty-fine, newly built homes, replacing ruined ones.

As to fishing, I’ll whisper that there is very much to be desired. If it’s not the waves, it’s the weather. If not the weather, it’s the tiny matter of no frickin fish. But who’s complaining? OK, you can all put your hands down.

If I had to pick a prime culprit behind the slow surf fishing, it’s the temps, both air and sea. What’s more, we’re far from over this freaky-mild fall. Another bubble of mild air will be arriving just in time for November. If you think the 70s were weird in October, wait until they show up when Christmas jingles are already thick in the air.

The ongoing too-mildness will put to test the scientific assertion that, in the long run, it is the shortening of days, along with other astronomical triggers, that get forage fish migrations and gamefish detonations on the autumnal move. With the ocean still as much as 15 degrees above normal, we’ll definitely need cosmic influences to spark our once-famed fall surfcasting bite.

Not all that long ago, fall was a slam-dunk time to surfcast for bass, blues and weakies, with the likes of red drum, Spanish mackerel and spotted sea trout thrown in for good measure. Wethinks something has gone amuck and awry. Here’s hoping the amuckawryness soon fades.

To its credit, the 2017 LBI Surf Fishing Classic has seen a spattering of striped bass action, albeit smallish in nature. Nonetheless, it’s great to see legal weigh-ins of any dimensions.

With over a month to go in the Classic, cows will surely come on-scene. The first trophy stripers will likely spark a rush to the suds, considering there are over 670 antsy entrants in the nine-week event.

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