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Trout in New York's Salmon River aren't getting their vitamins

Officials promised to continue research into the connection between the vitamin B deficiency and the unusually high mortality rate.

By Brooks Hays
Trout in New York's Salmon River aren't getting their vitamins
Man holding a steelhead trout. Photo by John Tobin/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

SYRACUSE, N.Y., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Steelhead trout in New York apparently aren't eating their bananas and whole grains, as new evidence suggests the local population is suffering from a vitamin B deficiency -- a deficiency biologists say explains the higher rate of mortality among trout in the Salmon River.

For last two months, biologists have been trying to understand why adult steelhead trout returning to the Salmon River in Oswego County, in upstate New York, were dying in unusually high numbers. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation first fielded warnings from local fishermen in November who said steelhead were swimming "erratically."

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On Wednesday, state conservation officials released a statement suggesting the steelhead, a relative of the rainbow trout, returning from Lake Ontario may not be getting enough vitamin B.

Though biologists with the agency declined to elaborate on the reason for the vitamin deficiency, it's likely it has something to do with alewife, a baitfish in Lake Ontario and a main food source for steelheads. Alewife provide the trout with thiaminase, the enzyme that helps break down thiamine -- a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex.

Officials promised to continue research into the connection between the vitamin B deficiency and the unusually high mortality rate. State fisheries managers have already begun injecting adult fish with thiamine.

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"Steelhead provide high-quality sport fisheries in the open lake and are especially sought after by anglers who fish in tributaries from fall through spring," DEC commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement. "DEC staff will continue to work closely with federal agencies, Cornell University and other stakeholders to identify the cause of the current situation and strategies to ensure a robust steelhead population."

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