Reg changes aimed at slowing spread of VHS

By Bill
Parker

Editor

Lansing – The fight against viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS)
is intensifying.

DNR Director Becky Humphries, at this month’s Natural Resources
Commission meeting in Lansing, signed an emergency order that
changes some fishing regulations – particularly those governing the
use of live bait and catch-and-release fishing – in an effort to
slow the spread of the deadly fish disease. VHS causes internal and
external hemorrhaging in fish, which can lead to death.

It is not transmittable to humans.

There is, however, concern that the disease could cause
wide-spread fish mortality, especially if it gets into some of the
smaller inland lakes.

VHS is thought to have entered the Great Lakes through the
release of ballast water from oceangoing freighters. It was
confirmed in Michigan waters of the Great Lakes in 2005 following a
spring die-off of mature muskies in Lake St. Clair. Since then, it
has been found in as many as 36 fish species ranging from the St.
Lawrence Seaway to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. It also has been
linked to a fish die-off in Clare County’s Budd Lake and in
Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago chain.

The new regulations focus on eliminating the transportation of
live fish from infected waters to non-infected waters – movement
scientists believe could accelerate the spread of the disease.

Along that line, all Michigan waters will be designated in one
of three ways: pathogen-positive management areas, where the
presence of VHS already has been confirmed; pathogen-surveillance
management areas, where VHS is likely to be found in the near
future; and pathogen-free management areas, where VHS has not been
confirmed and where it is unlikely to be found in the near
future.

When purchased from a bait store, bait will be marked as to
which pathogen management area it originated. Uncertified bait or
bait collected by anglers is restricted on where it can be used.
Baitfish from VHS-positive management waters can only be used on
VHS-positive waters; bait from VHS-surveillance management waters
can be used in VHS-surveillance or VHS-positive waters; and
baitfish from VHS-free waters can be used anywhere in the
state.

The important aspect of this regulation is for anglers to know
where the different VHS management areas are. That information will
be available at bait shops and on the DNR website,
www.michigan.gov/dnr.

The regulations go into effect June 28.

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