The students of the Kitsamp Academy caught salmon and crab, smoked and canned fish, and shared their catch with tribal elders.

BREMERTON, WASH – Scientists already know that salmon swimming near Bremerton [19459036

Now, there is evidence that Bremerton shellfish are taking opioids.

Analysis of mussel samples from Bremertons Sinclair Inlet and Seattles Elliott Bay revealed traces of oxycodone, a semi-synthetic opioid analgesic, along with a host of other pharmaceuticals, according to researchers from the State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington-Tacoma

"It's a reminder that what we consume on land ends up in the waters of Puget Sound."

Fish and wildlife biologist Jennifer Lanksbury

The amount of oxycodone in the mussels posed no risk to human health and the shellfish were raised from non-harvest areas. Fish and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Lransbury said the findings opened eyes especially in light of the ongoing opioid crisis

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"It's a reminder that what we consume on land ends up in the waters of Puget Sound," Lanksbury said.

The samples were taken as part of the state-owned Puget Sound Shell Monitoring Program. Every two years uncontaminated shellfish bred outside Whidbey Island are transplanted to surveillance areas around Puget Sound. After a few months, the shellfish are recovered and tested for toxins

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"We want to see what kinds of contaminants occur in the Puget Sound on and where they happen, "Lanksbury explained.

The program typically focuses on hydrocarbons from fossil fuels, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), flame retardants and other common toxins. Recently, researchers received funding to study shellfish for "contaminants of emerging interest," including medicines and personal care products.

Puget Sound Institute scientists tested mussels from 18 urban waters in 2013. Samples from three sites – two in Bremerton and one in Seattle – contained oxycodone.

Lanksbury said the amount of oxycodone was so low that a human would need to eat 150 pounds of mussels to take even a mild dose. The shellfish were collected from areas that were closed for harvest due to continued contamination and were not near commercial shellfish land. MORE: Tribes Suing Pharmaceutical Companies for "Flood" of Opioids

Oxycodone was far from the only drug found in shellfish. Tests revealed antibiotics, various types of antidepressants and high levels of melphalan, a chemotherapy drug. Andy James from the Puget Sound Institute presented the study's findings at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in April.

Medicines are likely to leak from sewage treatment plants that do not release all the chemicals that are routed into the drains and toilets. A 2016 study found that Chinook salmon caught in Sinclair Inlet had consumed a staggering number of medicines as well as caffeine and cocaine.

Lanksbury said shells are an ideal "sentinel species" for the study of toxins, including pharmaceuticals. As filter donors, shells collect and store compounds from the surrounding water. And unlike fish, mussels can not metabolize drugs like opioids because they have no liver.

"They're like little vacuum cleaners," Lanksbury said. "The shells are a tool for us to keep an eye on Puget Sound." RELATED: Leader Plan North Mason Forum on Opioide

The shellfish monitoring program receives financial support from the state, local governments, tribes, and a coalition of rainwater permit holders. Volunteers distribute, collect and process mussels.

For more information, see

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