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Susquehanna Smallmouth Bass Send SOS

By Molly Daly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Something is clearly wrong with the Smallmouth Bass of the Susquehanna River. A recent Fish and Boat Commission census found their population diminished, and many young fish dotted with sores and black spots. The Commission's executive director, John Arway, has gotten federal help in finding the cause and a cure.

Arway believes animal waste and fertilizer runoff is fueling algae blooms that stress the immune systems of the fish, producing the gruesome lesions.

"It's about clean water," Arway says. "It's important for us to look at the signs that the river is telling us as to whether it's healthy or not. One of those early signs, early warnings, is, much like the canary in the coal mine, and that's the Smallmouth Bass in the Susquehanna River, and right now, they're telling us that the river's water quality is so poor that it's causing them to get sores and lesions."

Arway says the river is sick, but that the state DEP lacks the tools and information to make that determination. So he has asked the EPA to pitch in.

"They're bringing in a new technique to analyze the data," he says, "and we're hopeful that that'll bring the data together so we can do the diagnosis."

And then, come up with a treatment plan that will restore the river -- and Smallmouth Bass -- to health.

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