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Fish are an important component of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Toxics in Biota Program, part of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP, recently renamed from PSAMP). Since 1989 fish indicator species have been used to monitor contamination of Puget Sound by chemicals such as poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides, and metals. English Sole, the first species studied for the Toxics in Biota Program, have been used for monitoring by WDFW since 1989. As of 2015 the program also monitors copper rockfish, quillback rockfish, brown rockfish, coho salmon, chinook salmon, Pacific herring, and Pacific staghorn sculpin. Exposure and effects of each contaminant are monitored for each species, and more in-depth studies of specific regions are performed if monitoring indicates a contamination problem.
Geographical characteristics making Puget Sound especially susceptible to contaminants include funneling of fish through narrow inlets, restricted exchange of water, shallow sea floor sills, and freshwater inputs from urban sources. One of the largest sources of contaminants is stormwater runoff. During heavy rain events metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and pesticides flow untreated into local waterways, streams, and lakes. Impervious surfaces such as roads provide a route for deposition of metals and POPs by cars and industrial emissions, before subsequent discharge into nearby water bodies. The highly urbanized coastline of southern Puget Sound results in stormwater runoff containing high concentrations of contaminants.

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