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Great Lakes fish hauling stopped to combat virus

Started by djkimmel, October 29, 2006, 11:12:18 PM

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This is related to our fish kills of the past couple of years on the Great Lakes and a pretty serious issue:

Great Lakes fish hauling stopped to combat virus
Rule affects industry, bait shops

Toledo Blade
October, 27 2006

Transport of live fish among the Great Lakes states and their importation here from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec - an industry valued at tens of millions of dollars annually - came to a screeching halt this week with a federal order aimed at preventing the spread of a virus that kills fish.

The order, issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, caught Great Lakes state fisheries authorities by surprise when it went into effect Tuesday.

Briefings for industry representatives and fisheries agencies personnel on the order are set for two days next week in Washington.

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia does not affect humans. The federal order doesn't affect commercial sales or consumption of processed fish, such as yellow perch or walleye.

The order affects bait dealers and bait shops, commercial fish propagators who raise fish for lake and pond stocking, and related businesses along with state fish and wildlife agencies. It also will affect sport fishermen who buy minnows for bait.

The order is intended "to prevent the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia into aquaculture [fish-farming] facilities," the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated. An alert issued by the agency in August calls the disease "an extremely serious pathogen of fresh and saltwater fish and is causing an emerging disease in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada."

"This is a big hammer [the agency] is swinging," asserted Fred Snyder, an Ohio Sea Grant extension agent for western Lake Erie. "People don't realize this is going to affect everybody. It's the nightmare that you hoped wouldn't happen."

Mr. Snyder said he has been tapped to represent the Ohio Aquaculture Association's opposition to the order next week in Washington. He said he has not had time to perform a detailed economic analysis, but said that lakes-wide the impact of the order easily could mean "tens of millions of dollars annually."

At the angler level, he added, "the price of minnows is going to go up."

Dan Bake r, owner of Butch and Denny's Bait in Jerusalem Township, said he had not yet heard of the order. But he added: "That's going to put the hurts to the availability of bait."

Ray Petering, executive administrator for fish management and research for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, called the order "a bombshell," vowing, "we're going to try to make it go away from any direction that we can."

Mr. Petering contended that the fish health committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission already was drafting a strategy to deal with the disease and it had told the agency that "in no uncertain terms, 'we're driving the boat on this.'."

Kurt Newman, Lake Erie basin manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said DNR director Rebecca Humphries and two others will go to the Washington briefing.

"We were surprised," Mr. Newman said of the sudden federal action. "Communication was not sufficient to keep everybody in the loop."

The disease was blamed for killing tens of thousands of sheepshead or freshwater drum and thousands of yellow perch in Lake Erie last summer.

The virus has been confirmed so far in Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, and fisheries authorities suspect it will be found more widely as detective work continues.

In the past, APHIS said, the disease was thought to be a concern only for trout and a few other freshwater fish raised commercially in Europe. But the recent outbreaks in the Great Lakes appear to represent a new strain of the virus and has been responsible for dieoffs of muskellunge, smallmouth bass, northern pike, drum, gizzard shad, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, rock bass, white bass, redhorse sucker, bluntnose sucker, round goby, and walleye.

The transport ban covers live fish of 37 species, but the agency said it reserves the right to add any other species that test positive for the disease. The agency said it is not known how the disease got into the Great Lakes or how long it has been present.

It was first identified in drum in Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte in 2005.

Jim Rogers, an agency spokesman, said the transport ban was issued "just to hold this until we can go through rule-making."

He added that "a lot can be decided next week, and a lot can be modified in the order even before rule-making." However, the spokesman stressed, "whenever you see a federal order you can assume a sense of urgency."

That urgency, he explained, is fueled by the rapid expansion of the disease from 2005 to 2006, geographically and among species, and the results of research into the disease.

"We don't want to shut down markets," Mr. Rogers stated. "We want to protect markets."

The order affects a broad spectrum of live-fish businesses.

For example, the annual supply of Lake Erie emerald shiners, popular bait minnows, essentially is expended by this time of year and bait shops and dealers look to other Great Lakes states to supply winter and early spring ice fishing and post ice-out fishing demands. So shipments of minnows from, say, Minnesota or New York, are banned.

Ohio fisheries managers trade Michigan steelhead trout eggs for Ohio fingerling channel catfish. The egg shipments still are allowed but not the fingerling catfish, said Jeff Tyson, supervisor of the state's Lake Erie Fish Research Station at Sandusky.

Mr. Tyson also said the order affects the state's muskellunge-rearing program. "A lot of the shiners we use in the hatching program for grow-up are from Minnesota." He also noted that until now a lot of commercial netters shipped live white bass and channel catfish to pay lakes in Indiana and elsewhere.

Nor can licensed bait dealers transport live baitfish into or out of Ohio within the Great Lakes.

It was clear by yesterday afternoon that the issue had gained national political and international notoriety.

Statements of concern were issued in Washington, for example, by the offices of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), both longtime Great Lakes program supporters.

Miss Kaptur pledged daily contact with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as the issue unfolds and has asked advice from the University of Toledo Lake Erie Research Center. Mr. Voinovich, an avid angler, said he wants to ensure stability of the lakes and a quick resolution of the issue.

John Cooper, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said representatives of the Canada Food Inspection Agency, the APHIS counterpart, would be working closely with the U.S. agency not only with an eye to cooperation in halting the spread of the disease but also to seek modifications to the order.

Contact Steve Pollick at:
or 419-724-6068

Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of The Bass Federation of Michigan.


Something to think about...

Published: November 09. 2006 3:00AM
Another reason to close Great Lakes

November 9, 2006
Contact ERIC SHARP at 313-222-2511 or

A federal agency has banned transporting 27 species of live fish out of eight Great Lakes states or importing them from two Canadian provinces in an effort to stop the spread of a disease called viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

But the ban makes little sense.

It's illegal for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to ship live walleyes to Iowa on the other side of the Illinois River. But Illinois fisheries biologists can pour live walleyes into their side of the river while waving at the Iowa fisheries biologists on the opposite shore.

It's illegal under the ban for Michigan to ship live steelhead and salmon to other Great Lakes states. But Michigan can dump salmon and steelhead into its own Great Lakes waters and watch them swim to other states.

The emergency order issued last month by the Animal and Plant Health Industry Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was well intended but poorly thought out.

It probably will do little to stop the spread of a disease that first showed up in the lower Great Lakes last year and has the potential to cause fish kills throughout the system, and perhaps in most of America's fresh waters. More...

Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of The Bass Federation of Michigan.

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