In situ contaminant and water quality studies were conducted with striped bass prolarvae,Morone saxatilis, in two major spawning areas of the Chesapeake Bay in 1990 to explore the possible effects of water quality and contaminants conditions on survival. Three 96-hin situ survival studies with striped bass prolarvae were conducted at three stations in the Potomac River and three stations in the upper Chesapeake Bay during a major portion of the spawning season (13–20°C). Water quality parameters, inorganic contaminants and organic contaminants were monitored in the water column at these three stations during the experiments. Concentrations of 10 metals associated with precipitation events occurring at field sites on the Potomac River and upper Chesapeake Bay were also determined.
Survival of prolarvae ranged from 2 to 17.5% in all three 96-h tests conducted in the Potomac River. Control survival was greater than 79%. Survival of prolarvae during experiment 3 (all stations combined for each experiment) was significantly lower than survival of prolarvae during experiment 1. The low survival of prolarvae during experiment 3 occurred concurrently with a reported “fish kill” on the Potomac River. Chromium (14 μg/L) and zinc (119 μg/L) concentrations exceeding U.S. EPA water quality criteria were reported from a 48-h composite sample taken during experiment 3. Lower than normal pH conditions (6.8 and 6.9) were also documented during this experiment. Arsenic, chromium, and zinc may have been stressful.
Survival of prolarvae at the three stations during upper Chesapeake Bay tests ranged from 36 to 52.5% for 96-h exposures but was slightly lower (23–34.5%) during a 120-h exposure. Control survival was >81% in all experiments. Survival of prolarvae during all experiments in the upper Bay was similar to natural survival that occurs with this life stage. Adverse water quality and contaminant conditions were not reported in the upper Chesapeake Bay striped bass spawning area.
Detectable concentrations of cadmium (0.80 and 0.89 μg/L), aluminum (5.4 μg/L), chromium (1.1 μg/L), and zinc (2.5 μg/L) were reported in acidic precipitation samples (pH 3.4) collected from the Potomac River site. Surface water concentrations of these metals did not increase in the Potomac River study area after the precipitation events. The following metals were detected in acidic precipitation (pH 4.06–5.12) in the upper Chesapeake Bay: 22.1 μg/L Al; 1.1, 1.8, 2.3 μg/L Cd; 1.2 μg/L Cu; 2.7 and 3.1 μg/L Pb and 4.6 μg/L Zn. Concentrations of Al (22.1 μg/L) and Pb (3.1 μg/L) in precipitation corresponded with increased concentrations in the surface waters at a nearby station in the upper Chesapeake Bay study area.