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Survey Explores Health of Fish in Gulf of Mexico

They've all heard the rumors: Sick fish, some with lesions, others with discoloration or deformities, have been pulled from the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this year, anglers caught red and vermilion snapper with wounds straight through their muscle tissue. Now there's talk of grouper and mahimahi in a similar state.

But fishermen and scientists concerned about the health of fish in nearby waters are tired of rumors. They want facts.

Last week, a group of commercial fishermen and marine scientists set out to find the truth.

"We need to know whether there's a problem going on with the fish or not," said Bob Spaeth, a Madeira Beach fisherman and spokesman for the commercial fishing industry. "What we really fear is if there's not a problem with the fish and people perceive that there is problem, then fishermen are going to have a problem marketing their fish, which could collapse the market."

The first two of three vessels launched from the Florida coast last week on one of many 10-day trips around the gulf aimed at catching and studying fish, such as snapper and grouper, two of Florida's most valuable species. ...