FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2009
Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
Julia Dixon, DGIF
RICHMOND, VA. — Scattered reports of dead fish in Virginia’s western rivers have been received since mid-May this year, and in some areas anglers and fish biologists are finding significant numbers of fish with lesions, according to the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Reports of dead fish and fish with lesions, similar to what has occurred in past years, have come in to DEQ and DGIF from these rivers:
• North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County (from the New Market area downstream to beyond Woodstock).
• Upper portions of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Rockingham County (mainly upstream of Elkton).
• Lower sections of the North, Middle and South rivers in Augusta and Rockingham counties.
• Upper James River near Buchanan in Botetourt County.
The number of reported fish kills has been small this year, as streams are just beginning to warm and waters have been high because of recent rains. As in other years, it is difficult to estimate the number of diseased or dead fish. In the affected rivers, the fish kills appear to be mild, with a few dead fish per mile in most areas. With the exception of the single report from the upper James River indicating a high percentage of fish with lesions, biologists generally have seen around 15 percent to 25 percent of fish with lesions.
Weekly observations and fish health evaluations are continuing this spring, and scientists are collecting water and fish samples from the Shenandoah and upper James rivers before, during, and after any disease or fish kill outbreaks.
Scientists recently have found a link between Aeromonas salmonicida – a bacterium found in the diseased river fish – and lesions and deaths of experimentally infected laboratory fish. A significant focus of current investigations is to determine the source of this bacterium and how it is transmitted, and to determine why certain fish appear to be more susceptible than others.
The kills are most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish, but other types of fish also have been affected. Many of these fish develop skin lesions before dying. Other fish, though, have only fungal infections and many have died without any visible skin lesions. The fish kills have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise above the mid-50s and in past years have run from early April until mid-May.
The investigating agencies and the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force encourage the public to provide information on the location, number and type of fish found dead or sick in the Shenandoah and James river systems. Anyone with information is asked to call the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800, or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information also can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By: Virginia DEQ - DEQcast - DEQ news releases