ABSTRACT

Environmental changes or stressors can result in the development of diseases. Through regular fish disease surveys in the Belgian part of the North Sea, attention was drawn to a sudden increase of skin ulceration prevalence between 2011 and 2014 in common dab (Limanda limanda). Information on prevalence, ulceration, bacteriology, fish-related (e.g., length, age, and sex) and (spatial and temporal) environmental factors, and fishing intensity were gathered. This detailed investigation was framed within a long-term monitoring program, executed every spring–autumn from 2000 to present. Ulcerations were observed in 1.3% of fish (n=3,999). Spatial and temporal differences were evident, and highest prevalence was found in summer. Vibrio was the dominant cultivated bacterial genus present in the lesions. Skin ulcerations appeared to be correlated with length and body condition of the fish, as well as with temperature and pH of the seawater and fishing vessel density. Our research suggested the involvement of multiple factors in the development of skin ulcerations in common dab and endorsed the effects of changing environment and human influence on the marine ecosystem through activities such as fishing.

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