Several diseases, parasites, and other organisms are known to infect saltwater fish in the Mid Atlantic region.
Micobacterium is a serious problem that saltwater anglers should be aware of. Micobacterium affects the health of affected fish and can cause infections in humans.
According to VIMS:
“There is a slight potential for human infection from handling striped bass infected with M. shottsii and other mycobacteria. Concern is warranted because M. shottsii is closely related to M. marinum, a species known to pass from infected fish to humans via handling. (M. marinum has also been isolated from some Chesapeake Bay striped bass).
Anglers should thus:
return any fish with skin lesions to the water
wear gloves when handling striped bass
take particular care if they have a cut, scrape, or abrasion on their hands or arms, and
wash thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with fish or open water.”
The American Littoral Society offers similar advice and warns against eating or handling the fish. They also request that anglers provide pictures of infected fish when possible.
VIMS has instituted a fish tagging program to study striped bass infected with micobacteriosis. If you catch a striped bass or “rockfish” with a green tag, please call 1-866-845-3379.
Pfiesteria is another organism that anglers should be aware of. When pfiesteria outbreaks occur, nearby fish populations are sometimes affected, possibly causing fish kills. Controversy exists as to whether pfiesteria affects humans.