NANFA-- FW: New database of wild fish health information

Jay DeLong (
Tue, 25 Sep 2001 10:58:08 -0700

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 09:24:49 -0700 (MST)
To: rainbowfish <>

G'day folks

Thought this might be of interest to some of you.

September 24, 2001 Ken Burton 202-208-5634


An extensive national database outlining the distribution of
disease-associated pathogens in America's wild and free-ranging fish
populations viewed as critical to fishery management decisions throughout
United States was unveiled today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Scientists said it points to "a relatively healthy picture."

The National Wild Fish Health Survey is the first effort to develop a
accessible, reliable and scientifically-sound database that documents the
national distribution of specific pathogens (organisms capable of causing
disease) in free-ranging fish. The project was prompted in 1996, in part,
when whirling disease began killing trout in Montana and Colorado. Whirling
disease has also been found in trout populations in 20 other states.

Biologists have expressed concern about earlier theories that more fish
pathogens might be infecting fish populations previously believed immune to
certain diseases, but the Survey does not show that to be happening.

Cathleen Short, Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation,
said Senator Conrad Burns deserved credit for being "a driving force" behind
making the Survey a reality. "Without the senator's leadership, the Survey
would not have happened. It is a critically important piece of work for
the entire nation can be grateful."

"Healthy fish mean a healthy environment and a healthy economy," said Short.
"This Survey tells us about potential threats to the well-being of America's
fish populations and helps managers see that this resource remains vital and

Short said that much of the present understanding of fish pathogens and the
diseases they cause has been gained by observing captive fish populations in
either hatcheries or laboratories, and that "surprisingly little is known
about the prevalence of pathogens among wild, free-ranging fish. That's
another reason why this Survey is very important."

Short said the Survey indicates that the overwhelming majority of fish
from the wild are healthy, "and that's terrific news for the nation."

The Survey is conducted through a partnership of natural resource management
organizations, including other Federal, Native American, State and private
agencies and groups. It becomes available to fisheries managers and the
today on a Worldwide Web-based internet site, at

The Survey divides fish pathogens into two main groups: Principal Fish
Pathogens and Pathogens of Regional Importance. Principal Fish Pathogens are
those tested at all nine U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Health Centers
across the country. Many of those tested for the Survey are also included
within the Service's National Fish Hatchery inspection program. This group
extensive and includes the organisms that cause whirling disease and
kidney disease. The other group of pathogens tested are those that the Fish
Health Centers deem important in their part of the country. Those are
Pathogens of Regional Importance and include largemouth bass virus in the
Southeast and Asian tapeworm in the Southwest.

Fish pathogens comprise a large and diverse group of organisms ranging from
microscopic bacteria and viruses to large parasitic worms. The severity of
disease caused by fish pathogens also varies widely and depends on a number
important factors. Some pathogens cause only mild effects, if any, on
individual fish while others may cause catastrophic die-offs of whole
populations. Disease results from the unstable interaction of three main
variables: the fish host, the fish pathogen and the water the fish live in.
Fish are continually exposed to pathogens but generally become diseased when
stressed by contaminants, poor water quality or other similar factors. A
pathogens may cause disease in healthy fish regardless of stress.

Understanding the distribution of fish pathogens throughout the United
will help strengthen the biological basis of laws and regulations that
the sale and transport of aquatic species as well as aquaculture products.
That information can help protect such industries from costly diseases and
indirectly safeguard thousands of American jobs.

The Survey also promotes recreational fishing, ensuring that both wild fish
and stocks enhanced with hatchery-reared fish are healthy and sustainable.
Healthy recreational fisheries provide the base for 1.3 million jobs and $70
billion in economic output generated by more than 50 million anglers in the
United States.

The Survey will also be an important aid to biologists working on
and recovery of threatened and endangered species. Knowledge about
of imperiled species and the ecosystems into which they are to be
will significantly improve the success of such management actions in
or restoring imperiled species to their natural habitats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service
manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which
more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and
special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64
fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The
agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species
manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal
program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on
fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

- FWS -
For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
visit our home page at

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