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Great Lakes Article:

Fish rule aims to curb virus spread
By D'Arcy Egan
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published May 04, 2007


The Ohio Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced a proposal to help Ohio fish farmers and yet stop the spread of VHS, a virus killing Lake Erie fish.

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture has banned interstate shipments of live fish from all of the Great Lakes states because of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), a cold-water virus that has killed tens of thousands of fish in the lower Great Lakes, including sheepshead and yellow perch last spring in Lake Erie.

The ban threatens to put some Ohio aquaculturists out of business.

The Ohio proclamation, which would be in effect for a year, would prohibit shipping 36 species of fish only from a Lake Erie zone that is north of U.S. 6 to the west of Fremont, Ohio, and north of I-90 from Fremont to the Pennsylvania border.

The state will petition the USDA to change its rules to allow interstate shipments of Ohio fish from outside the new zone.

The ban would not apply to live fish or eggs removed from production facilities, such as the Castalia Fish Hatchery, that have tested negative for VHS. The Ohio ban also does not include channel catfish, a fish popular with aquaculturists that is on the USDA list.

Ohio Department of Agriculture tests have shown VHS is not present in the lower three-fourths of the state. The virus is thought to have been introduced to the Great Lakes in the ballast of ocean freighters.

Under USDA guidelines, it is legal to ship Lake Erie minnows to fishermen on the Ohio River, but not to other Great Lakes states or even the same watersheds where VHS exists.

Ohio dealers forecast a shortage of live bait this summer because of the USDA rules.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

degan@plaind.com, 216-999-5158


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