VHS fish disease found in lake herring from Apostle Islands areaVHS fish disease has been officially confirmed in lake herring collected in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior northeast of Bayfield.
VHS fish disease has been officially confirmed in lake herring collected in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior northeast of Bayfield. The disease is not a threat to human health.
This most recent finding came from lake herring collected in mid-December 2009 by a commercial fisherman working cooperatively with the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield and U.S. Geological Survey biologists in Ann Arbor, Mich., who submitted the fish for testing. The Michigan DNR notified Wisconsin last week that the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, had officially confirmed the presence of active VHS virus in the fish samples using the standard cell culture method.
This is the first time active VHS virus has been confirmed in lake herring and in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior using the standard testing method. It follows, and reconfirms, a January 2010 announcement from Cornell University scientists that they had detected viral fragments in fish from Lake Superior using experimental methods.
“We now know that without a doubt, VHS is present in Lake Superior and thus in all five Great Lakes,” said Wisconsin Fisheries Director Mike Staggs. “We are encouraged that no big fish kills have been reported in Lake Superior to date, and that Wisconsin has strong VHS rules in place to prevent it spreading to inland waters. We all need to follow these rules to contain this disease.”
No health risk nor rule changes for anglers
VHS, which stands for viral hemorrhagic septicemia, is not a human health risk but can infect dozens of native fish species and can cause them to bleed to death.
The confirmation of the virus in fish from the Apostle Islands won’t trigger any changes for anglers in Wisconsin, which already has some of the most protective rules among Great Lakes states, Staggs says.
The DNR included Lake Superior and its connecting waters in rules originally passed in 2007 and made permanent in 2008 to prevent the spread of VHS. The DNR concluded at that time that Lake Superior likely already had the virus because it was connected to waters where viral hemorrhagic septicemia had been confirmed.
For more information on VHS, look it up online at http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/vhs/.
Test results had come up clean until now
Staggs said that Wisconsin will continue monitoring for VHS and other fish diseases in Lake Superior and inland waters. DNR and other U.S. and Canadian natural resources agencies have been testing for VHS since 2006, and DNR has monitored the health of spawning lake trout for more than 25 years and VHS has never been detected.
“This is definitely a recent invader,” Staggs says. “We don’t think it’s widespread yet in the lake. It’s very important that we all be vigilant and take those steps that will help prevent spreading VHS and other fish diseases and aquatic invaders to new waters.”
Under those rules anglers must:
Buy minnows only from a registered Wisconsin bait dealer.
Drain all water from fishing and boating equipment when leaving the lake or entering Wisconsin. That includes draining all water from the container holding the day’s catch so that no live fish or eggs are taken away from the lake or river.
Use leftover minnows bought from a Wisconsin dealer on another lake or river only if no lake or river water or other fish were added to their bait container.
Use dead fish for bait only on the waters from which they were taken or if they were preserved by a method that does not require freezing or refrigeration. Watch “Preserving Your Bait” http://dnrmedia.wi.gov/main//Viewer/?peid=12a0afd2-b013-4be2-ada4-ada856520b53 for accepted methods.