Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Multi-State Research Grant Will Focus on Deadly Fish Virus

The Great Lakes Fishery Trust announced today a $750,000 grant to address viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a deadly viral disease in fish. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey's Western Fisheries Research Center, Michigan State University, and Cornell University have joined together to provide resource managers in the Great Lakes region with new tools and information to better understand, predict, and manage the threat posed by this fatal disease.

The research will compare the effects of VHS on important native and Great Lakes sportfish, including lake trout and Pacific salmon, and develop new and faster detection techniques which are key information gaps on this virus as identified by the Department of Natural Resources.

"This research allows us to be proactive and focus on the highest priority needs for this new and emerging disease," said Great Lakes Fishery Trust Board Chair and DNR Director Rebecca Humphries. "This funding will provide critical management tools to protect our fish populations."

First identified in the region as the cause of a large die-off of freshwater drum in Lake Ontario in 2005, VHS is considered a serious viral disease of fish. Since that time, a number of outbreaks have occurred in the Great Lakes with the exception of Lake Superior where it has not been detected. While having no affects on humans, over 25 fish species have been found with VHS in the Great Lakes region. Significant losses among muskellunge, walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, round gobies, bluegill, black crappie and gizzard shad have been seen during the period from 2005-2007. It is not known how VHS was introduced to the Great Lakes, or exactly how long it has been in the ecosystem, but the discharge of ballast water from ocean-going vessels is a prime suspect. Within the Great Lakes region, movement of infected baitfish has also been suspected as the source of VHS that has been found in certain inland lakes of New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.

"This intensive, multi-research institute focus on VHS offers the best approach to effectively respond and manage VHS in the Great Lakes region," said Dr. James Winton, chief of U.S. Geological Survey's Fish Health Section. "The Great Lakes Fishery Trust is a key funding partner in this effort and should be recognized for this valuable contribution."

The Great Lakes Fishery Trust (GLFT) was established in 1996 as a result of a settlement agreement with the Ludington Pump Storage Utility Plant on Lake Michigan. The mission of the GLFT is to provide funding to enhance, protect, and rehabilitate Great Lakes fishery resources. Since inception, the GLFT has awarded over $30 million to enhance and protect fishery resources and provide enhanced shore-based angling access.

a news release of the Michigan DNR, Feb 12, 2008
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