[Coral-List] Contract: Cyanide Testing Research

Glynnis Roberts Glynnis.Roberts at noaa.gov
Tue Apr 8 10:20:32 EDT 2008

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program's (CRCP) Office of Habitat 
Conservation is seeking partners capable of conducting research on 
cyanide exposure in marine aquarium fish. We currently have a small 
amount of funding available for cyanide research, and are looking to 
identify interested researchers or laboratories as well as other 
possible sources of matching funds.

 The use of cyanide to capture marine aquarium and food fishes live is a 
widespread problem throughout southeast Asia and the south Pacific. 
Programs to deter the use of cyanide (e.g., net retraining efforts and 
testing of fish for the presence of cyanide) have been effective at 
reducing the use of cyanide, at least over the short term. However, only 
one test has been widely used (in the Philippines): the Ion Selective 
Electrode (ISE) method. Before expanding the use of the ISE testing 
method, experts at a recent NOAA-led workshop on cyanide testing 
recommended the need for research to determine: 1) whether measurable 
background levels of cyanide could be detected in marine fishes that 
have not been exposed to cyanide during capture; 2) how long can you 
detect the presence of cyanide in a fish exposed to varying 
concentrations of cyanide; and 3) the sensitivity of the ISE method.

 We are interested in supporting research to determine background levels 
of cyanide in small reef fish and rates of breakdown of cyanide 
following exposure. Specifically, we are seeking support of a laboratory 
to: 1) expose small reef fish (e.g., aquarium fishes) to varying 
concentrations of cyanide and preserve (freeze) the samples over 
specific time intervals for analysis; and 2) analyze the fish to 
determine the presence and concentration of cyanide. This could be done 
by two separate facilities, whereby the first facility is responsible 
for dosing the fish and freezing the sample, and the second lab digests 
the fish and tests for cyanide. Alternately, one lab could complete both 
the dosing and testing (in fresh and frozen samples).  

We would like potential partners to consider the following:
1) The samples need to be very small fish like those collected fro the 
aquarium trade, so it is not possible to test for cyanide levels in 
blood. The traditional method involves digestion of the whole fish or 
specific organs to liberate the cyanide.
2) The presence of background levels of cyanide in marine ornamental 
fish has not been verified. Cyanide is widely used in mining throughout 
Southeast Asia and there are claims that there are high "natural" levels 
of cyanide in the water.
3) The ISE method is the only test that has been applied at points of 
export to date. However, there have been a few studies claiming the test 
is not sensitive and ISE tests may be giving false readings, as they are 
able to detect cyanide for 24 hours or more after exposure (while other 
labs indicate the half life may be only an hour or so). Ideally, we 
would like to validate the ISE methodology and also undertake 
comparative studies using an alternate method.

 If you are interested in conducting this work or know of someone that 
would be appropriate, please respond to Glynnis.Roberts at noaa.gov 
<mailto:Glynnis.Roberts at noaa.gov>. Please provide some indication of 
your capabilities and estimated costs.

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