An exotic virus is believed to have killed 10 tons of carp in one Northwestern Wisconsin lake and may have spread to the Mississippi River basin, state officials say.
Spring viremia of carp, commonly found in Europe, is suspected of killing the carp last spring and fall in Cedar Lake in St. Croix and Polk counties, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
Testing began last week to be sure spring viremia is what killed them, said Mike Staggs, director of fisheries management and habitat protection with the DNR. But the dead fish exhibited signs of the illness.
With two major connections to the Mississippi River -- the Apple River and the St. Croix River -- some fear that infected fish from Cedar Lake could make their way downstream, putting other waterways at risk.
"If it is, in fact, spring viremia of carp, I think it's very likely that it will spread to other waters because the lake it was found in, Cedar Lake, has tributaries to the St. Croix River, which is a tributary of the Mississippi River," Staggs said. "That could give free access of the disease to the entire Mississippi River drainage basin. So, we're very worried about the potential for it to spread."
If confirmed, the Cedar Lake cases of spring viremia would be the first time the virus has been found in the wild in the United States.
The disease is so prolific in Europe, where carp is considered a valuable game fish, that it is covered by an international treaty that requires laboratory testing and reporting to international health authorities.
Staggs said it is uncertain what other fish species might be at risk.
Carp are members of the minnow family, which means other minnow species may be susceptible to the disease. Northern pike also may be at risk, he said.
To prevent spreading of the disease, Staggs said the DNR plans to ban minnow harvests in some waterways, although there are no plans at this time to monitor state minnow farms.
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