Tumored Redfin Needlefish, Clues of Sickness in the Indian River Lagoon

Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state studied by the Florida Wildlife Commission. Why?
Tumored needlefish are more common in the Indian River Lagoon than anywhere else in the state. Why? (Photograph, public study, 1999-2009, by the Florida Wildlife Commission.)

I have decided to do a series of writings on the sick animals of the Indian River Lagoon because a “picture speaks a thousand words.” I am not trying to “focus on the negative,” or be a “hysterical woman.” I am trying to effect change.

I have heard about the sick animals, fish and bi-valves in the Indian River Lagoon “up close” at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s, “IRL Symposium” of  which I have attended the past three years, since it has been resurrected. At these symposiums, students, state agencies and others share information. In fact, all of these individual agencies and scientists share information on their websites, but for some reason, it never really goes “public.”

So I will post this on Facebook and see if these sad stories that should be a call to our state federal,and local governments, get a bit more coverage. As we know, it seems the people have to scream before the elected officials and agencies pay much attention to the fact that the beautiful Indian River Lagoon world  we are living in is contaminated and crumbling before our very eyes.

So, to get back to the study,  the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) did comprehensive  research between 1999 and 2009. Ironically, 2009 is also the year the seagrass started to dip, foreshadowing  the massive die off of seagrasses and marine mammals in  the northern lagoon. The FWC study focused on the “Distribution of Lymphosarcoma in Redfin Needlefish, in the Indian River Lagoon.”

Redfin needlefish are approximately 380 millimeters, to me they look like miniature barracuda with smaller teeth and  are pretty cool, shiny, little fish. They live about three years, commercially serve as bait fish for marlin fishing, and are an important shallow water predators, eating lots of little bottom living  critters, lower on the food chain.

Generally, tumors are caused by chemical carcinogens, radiation, and viruses and can be benign (OK) or malignant (bad). The study included Tampa Bay; Charlotte Harbor; Apalachicola; Cedar Key; the St Johns River, and the Indian River Lagoon. Tumors were found on jaws, flanks, the trunk dorsal fin, the pectoral fin area and the head. The prevalence of these usually malignant tumors, in over 20,000 needlefish studied, specifically and especially  in the Indian River Lagoon was astounding.

chart needlefish

The highest area of tumors was the Banana River. The Banana River is part of the IRL system and is located mostly south of NASA in Brevard County.  As mentioned, it is also where the highest seagrass loss was during the super-bloom of 2011. This super-bloom was followed by a secondary bloom and Brown Tide that spread south, just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, also killing seagrasses and wildlife.


I am no scientist, but it seems like the Banana River has some serious issues. Of course we would not want to jump to any conclusions….We wouldn’t want to frighten the public…..We wouldn’t want to hurt tourism, especially now.” Shhhhh!”

Tumored needlefish were also found in the southern lagoon, but not the majority. I feel better already. NOT. The lagoon is a system, the animals and fish know no county lines nor do the tides, wind or water. Even if water does not move much, sickness can spread or point to latent problems of our own.  We must think as “one-system,” and help each other as one entity, if we are going to save this lagoon.

The study of which is included in this post below, has a bullet point that says “no tumors were found after 2009.”  Noting that there is no clue when the study ended, this seems odd.

Hmm….. I wonder if that’s because there was no money put forth by the state for more comprehensive studies after the financial crisis of 2008? I wonder if its because the wonderful hard working people at the state agencies were afraid if they were too brazen the state would fire them? Believe me this happens.

Personally, I think the State of Florida, local governments, and the Department of Environmental Protection have some information to share, and some more research to do, for the little fish, and for us.


FWC’s Study Tumored Needlefish IRL, 1999-2009: (http://www.ircgov.com/Lagoon/Symposium/Presentations/Part3/3.pdf)

5 thoughts on “Tumored Redfin Needlefish, Clues of Sickness in the Indian River Lagoon

  1. Good morning!!

    Can you please send me your picture as an attachment? For some reason, I have corrupted the picture and when I take the one off your blog, our system will not let me upload it.

    Sorry for the trouble. 🙁

    Have a great day!


  2. Facebook comments. Thank you.Robert Weidman, Pat Channing, Nicole Matlack Mader and 3 others like this.

    Connie Geral Bartlett Wow !!
    12 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Trish Tok How sad and senseless
    12 hours ago · Unlike · 2
    Cristina Maldonado and Trish Tok like this.

    Trish Tok It’s not negative. People need to know what’s happening to the animals!
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Phil Heitner First the fish then us!!!! We have tried everything legal to stop the discharges what else can we do? We are just a pimple on the ass of the federal government that has enough problems that puts our problem on their back burner. We have a better chance with the state. Need a governor that is not in bed with Big Sugar.

    S Donovan Essen 3:09pm May 21
    Very Unfortunate result of years of poor planning. The only resolution is to close all drainage canals feeding into the ST Lucie. Tow are state controlled and the Okeechobee Waterway is Federal. Why are the two state owned canals still draining into the estuary? And Why can’t we convince the Feds to fill and shut down the waterway? Very sad.
    Comment History
    DeAnne Knapp
    DeAnne Knapp 3:05pm May 21
    Gail- perfect word to describe Jacqui
    DeAnne Knapp
    DeAnne Knapp 3:03pm May 21
    Gail Meredith
    Gail Meredith 2:42pm May 21
    Thank you, Jacquie, for your powerful work.

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