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Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate Communities in Waterways, and Contaminants in Fish, at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana, 1999–2000

By Christopher M. Swarzenski, Scott V. Mize, Bruce A. Thompson, and Gary W. Peterson

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5065

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service


Fish and aquatic invertebrate communities in waterways of the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana, were surveyed from 1999 to 2000. An inventory of fish in the Barataria Preserve was established, and concentrations of selected organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and trace elements; iron; and manganese in fish tissue for selected species were determined. The fish and aquatic invertebrate sampling completed for this study indicated that abundant and diverse communities are present in the Barataria Preserve.

Thirty-two species of fish were identified in the Barataria Preserve during this survey. The total number of species identified in a single sampling ranged from 20 to 26. Most of the fish sampled are designated as intermediate in their tolerance to poor water quality. Three species of fish designated as tolerant (common carp, Cyprinus carpio; golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas; and yellow bullhead, Ameiurus natalis), and one as intolerant (lake chubsucker, Erymizon sucetta), were identified.

In November 1999, the average total weight of all fish collected by boat-mounted electroshocker from a single site was about 35,000 grams; in May and July 1999, the average total weight was between 9,000 and 10,000 grams. The contribution of spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) to the total weight of the fish averaged between 38 and 41 percent among the three sample periods. Members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) contributed between 18 and 28 percent of the total weight. For each sampling period, 60 to 83 percent of the total weight from the sunfish family was contributed by bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides).

Aquatic invertebrates were sampled at three sites. Most aquatic invertebrates identified were freshwater species, but some were brackish-water and marine species. About 234,000 organisms were identified and enumerated from the richest-targeted habitat (RTH, floating rafts of aquatic plants). Individuals from 84 genera belonging to 51 families were identified. Diptera (true flies) was the most diverse group. Malacostraca (crustaceans), especially Amphipoda (scuds and sideswimmers), were the most abundant (36 percent). Total abundance and taxa richness of aquatic invertebrates were comparable during the March and July sampling in 1999, but were lower in samples collected from the same habitat at all three sites in April 2000. About 106 individuals were identified and enumerated from the depositional-targeted habitat (DTH, bottom material). Individuals from 7 genera belonging to 9 families were identified. Diptera was the most diverse group, and Annelida, especially tubificid worms, were the most abundant organisms identified (52 percent). Total abundance and composition of aquatic invertebrate communities differed between RTH and DTH at all three sites in April 2000.

Organic compounds in whole fish, and trace elements, iron, and manganese in fillets, were analyzed in bowfin (Amia calva), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Organic compounds were not detected. Mercury was detected in fillets of all four species. Highest concentrations of mercury were detected in fillets from bowfin and largemouth bass. Mercury concentrations increased with increasing weight in the three predatory fish species (bowfin, bluegill, and largemouth bass), but were much lower, relative to weight, in the omnivore, common carp. Chromium concentrations were detected in tissue of the two larger fish, bowfin and common carp. Cadmium and lead were not detected in any samples.

Mercury concentrations for larger predatory fish caught in Preserve waterways may be a concern if the fish are frequently consumed by humans. The process of mercury accumulation appears to be natural, and not related to a local source problem. Mercury concentrations in comparable fish tissue at some other sites in coastal Louisiana were higher per unit wet weight of fish.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Approach and Methods


Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate Communities


Aquatic Invertebrates

Richest-Targeted Habitat

Depositional-Targeted Habitat

Contaminants in Fish

Summary and Conclusions

Selected References



Suggested Citation:

Swarzenski, C.M., Mize, S.V., Thompson, B.A., and Peterson, G.W., 2004, Fish and aquatic invertebrate communities in waterways, and contaminants in fish, at the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana, 1999–2000: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5065, 35 p.

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, C.M. Swarzenski (225) 298-5481 ext. 3219.

For more information about USGS activities in Louisiana, visit the USGS Louisiana District home page.

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