IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE SPEAKS OUT
Sponsor: Izaak Walton League of America - Duluth Chapter
Resolution of the Izaak Walton League of America,
McCabe (Duluth) Chapter February 7, 2007
Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), a disease caused by an
aquatic invasive species that originated in Europe, has
resulted in large-scale mortalities of fish in the eastern Great
Lakes. Without immediate action the disease will spread to
the Duluth-Superior harbor via untreated ballast water on
ships. This will seriously endanger Minnesota fish
VHS is a virulent and contagious disease that causes internal
and external bleeding of affected fish. Thus far, the virus has
been confirmed in at least twelve Great Lakes species,
including walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, yellow perch,
smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, redhorse sucker,
bluntnose sucker, white bass, gizzard shad, freshwater drum,
and round goby. Thousands of fish have been killed in single
outbreaks. The disease was first recorded in Lake St. Clair in
2003 and is spreading very rapidly according to the USDA-
APHIS Emerging Disease Notice, July 2006.
While the origin of the disease in the Great Lakes is presently
uncertain, known vectors for this disease include infected fish
survivors and contaminated water used for ballast in ships.
Ocean-going freighters (“salties”) are believed to have brought
the disease into the Great Lakes, and intra-lake freighters
(“lakers”) can spread the disease around the Great Lakes by
transporting infected fish and contaminated water. The Duluth-
Superior harbor is particularly vulnerable because more
ballast water is discharged there than in any other Great
Lakes port, approximately 8-16 billion gallons annually. Most
of this untreated raw water comes from ports where coal and
iron pellets are off-loaded in Detroit and on Lake Erie, places
affected by VHS. Without effective treatment of ballast water,
VHS will infect fish in the Duluth-Superior harbor and the lower
St. Louis River, causing large-scale mortalities and likely
Existing disinfection technology can significantly reduce or
even eliminate the spread of VHS by treating ballast water.
Chlorination and de-chlorination treatments, just as are used
by most municipal water and sewage treatment plants, can
also destroy the VHS virus. Chlorine is a proven disinfectant
for many viruses and bacteria; it has been used for water
treatment for more than one hundred years. The technology
has been improved over time to reduce costs and increase
safety. Effectiveness improves when chlorine is applied with
ammonia, forming longer-lasting chloramines that result in
increased total disinfection and sterilization.
The cost of treating ballast water are estimated at $100-200
per ten million gallons per round trip, or less than a one-penny
increase per gallon of fuel used by a typical thousand-foot lake
vessel, consuming 50,000-60,000 gallons of fuel oil per round
trip. Additional benefits are that most other aquatic invasive
species will also be killed by the treatment. By contrast,
economists estimate the cost of existing invasive species
ranges from $200 million to $5 billion per year. VHS
will add greatly to that toll if immediate action is not taken.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
All ballast water on ships traveling on the Great Lakes shall be
treated to eliminate VHS virus with presently available
technology and practices for the destruction of disease
organisms and non-native invasive species. In the absence
of other action, the state of Minnesota shall enact legislation
requiring disinfection of ballast water, effective immediately.
|Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia information
|Freshwater Drum fish kill on Lake St. Clair
|1000 foot "Laker" entering Duluth harbor with ten million
gallons of potentially infected ballast water
SAVE LAKE SUPERIOR ASSOCIATION CONCERNED
Mayor Herb Bergson
City of Duluth Minnesota
Dear Mayor Bergson,
I understand that you are seeking input for the hearing in front of the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on
March 7th. Members of the Save Lake Superior Association have long been concerned about the spread of Invasive species in the
Lake and the St.Louis River Estuary.
It is common knowledge that these species are transported in ballast water of ships from the lower lakes and seaway and then
discharged in ports along the shores of Lake Superior. Incredibly, we have found that no state or federal agency has sampled, let
alone taken responsibility for controlling invasive species in the ballast water.
Now, as you probably know, a particularly harmful virus, VHS, is poised to enter Lake Superior via the same ballast water conduit.
This cold water pathogen has killed thousands of fish in the lower Great Lakes. It may be even more contagious in the cold waters of
The cities that serve the shipping industry on the North Shore may be in a unique position to convince the industry to take measures
to decontaminate their ballast water before entering their ports. Again state and federal agencies want to study the problem before
considering any action. Considering the speed at which the virus propagates they will soon be monitoring the spread of the virus in
Lake Superior if nothing is done before this shipping season starts. The City of Duluth would be justified in asking that the freighters
decontaminate their ballast water before entering the harbor. Apparently, cities have certain authority to take this action and may be
able to expedite the process.
The stakes are high. The MN DNR estimates that a 10% sport fish kill could cost the local recreational fishing industry up to $11
million per year. That doesn’t include secondary businesses. The entire Lake Superior fishery is at risk of disappearing according to
some accounts. This is no publicity stunt. Trained scientists know where the virus is coming from and where it is going through
genetic sequencing from infected fish samples.
The good news is that ships ballast water can be effectively decontaminated at a very reasonable cost. Systems incorporating
chlorine technology for disinfecting ballast water are available and could be installed on ships either before or early in the shipping
season. Google the Severn Trent De Nora company and review their “Balpure” product line as a reference.
There are four major ports and three counties along the MN North Shore that would bear the brunt of a lost fishing industry. Ballast
water is discharged in each of these ports. The virus would soon migrate inland. I would expect state legislators from the Range and
the North Shore to also be especially interested in this prospect.
We at SLSA encourage you to take the lead in convincing the shipping industry that it is in all of our best interests to have the ballast
water treatment equipment installed on each ship entering Lake Superior with ballast water from the lower lakes this season.
Thanks for your attention. Please contact me if you have any specific questions. If I can’t answer them I will find someone that can.
We appreciate your leadership on environmental problem solutions.
Save Lake Superior Association
THE DETROIT NEWS WEIGHS IN ON VHS FISH VIRUS
New virus killing fish
Disease worries Lake St. Clair, Detroit River anglers
Jim Lynch | / The Detroit News
ST. CLAIR SHORES -- Richard Rittenhouse is used to seeing occasional dead fish turn up each spring in the canal waters just
beyond his back door. But nothing the St. Clair Shores resident has experienced in the six years he's lived there had prepared him for
what he saw last year. "I looked out there one morning and it was just loaded with more dead fish than I'd ever seen before," said the
57-year-old retiree. "And it was different kinds of fish than I'd seen before. The surface was just covered with them."
For those like Rittenhouse -- recreational anglers on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River -- and others who make their living on
those waters, concerns are rising over the impact of a disease some are calling "Ebola for fish." Scientists do not consider viral
hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) a threat to human health. But it could deal a severe blow to many local industries that thrive off the fish
in Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, the Detroit River and the St. Clair River. In response to thousands of dead fish reported last year, state
environmental officials have drawn up an action plan for 2007 that calls for shuffling resources to better monitor the spread of VHS.
They are also studying ways to fight the disease, which has already jumped from one species in Lake St. Clair area to at least five.
There is no cure or vaccine proven to be effective.
"Right now, we're just praying we can keep it out of the inland waters and fisheries," said Kelley D. Smith, the Michigan Department of
Natural Resource's Fisheries Division chief. "The fishing industries are going to be hard hit for a while." While no additional funding
is available this year to the department, Smith said some inland testing programs will be curtailed or cut and those funds will go
toward testing in the lake areas to monitor the spread of VHS. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reacted to the spread of the
disease in August by issuing an alert describing VHS as an "emerging disease."
Three months later, the federal government locked down the shipping of live fish and bait in the Great Lakes region. Last week,
Ontario placed similar restrictions on shipping to keep the virus from spreading into Canada's in-land waterways. Smith and other
DNR officials met earlier this month with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service to discuss options for dealing with VHS. And while Michigan has not issued any new directives yet to combat the
disease, some of the preventive measures under consideration may put the squeeze on Metro Detroit's fishing-related businesses.
Smith said one possible directive would restrict the use of bait minnows taken from water known to have VHS-infected fish.
Fishermen may be barred from using those minnows in bodies of water that have not had infections reported to keep the disease
from being introduced into new areas.
Such a directive would be legally enforceable by the state.
At the northeast corner of 10 Mile and Jefferson, Lakeside Fishing Shop has been a fixture in the angling community for nearly 40
years. In recent months, however, co-owner Dan Chimelak has been keeping a nervous eye on the state to see what action officials
take. "For us, the worst-case scenario would be not being able to sell bait minnows for fishing on Lake St. Clair," he said. "I don't
know if it would put us out of business or not, but it would really, really, really hurt."
Cause for concern
Steve VanAssche splits his work year into two parts. For the first few months on the calendar, he paints houses. As soon as
early spring hits, he becomes Capt. Steve, the man behind Bushwacker Charters in Harrison Township. As captain, VanAssche's
office workplace reaches from the waters of Lake St. Clair down the Detroit River. Last spring along the river, he said, it was readily
apparent that something was different.
The 39-year-old remembers regularly coming across dead fish during those early weeks -- many more than he had expected. Those
early indicators translated into a slower 2006 in some respects. "Our numbers were down all year, probably as much as 20 percent,"
VanAssche said. "If that continues, if we have another major die-off this year, it could be a big problem for us. If the numbers go down
by another 20 percent -- that's bad news."
State officials admit they simply don't know what course VHS may take this year. The disease works quickly, causing a fish's liver,
spleen and intestines to hemorrhage. Internal bleeding can result in lesions and sores that are outwardly visible to fishermen. Prior
to death, the fish become lethargic -- swimming in circles and or remaining relatively motionless near the surface.
THE TWIN CITIES “STAR TRIBUNE” WARNS MINNESOTANS
Deadly fish virus spreading west
Released: Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Last update: March 20, 2007 – 9:51 PM
A fatal fish virus that has caused large fish kills in the eastern Great Lakes is spreading west, and the next destination could be Lake
If it arrives there, it could spread to inland waters -- much as zebra mussels and other invasive species have -- with potentially
devastating effects on Minnesota's fisheries.
"It's a major disaster waiting to happen," said Gary Glass of Duluth, an environmental activist and retired chemist with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
"Once it's established here, it will go up the inland waters and down the Mississippi," said Glass.
"It's a big deal," agreed Ron Payer, fisheries chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "We're concerned."
The virus, called viral hemorrhagic septicemia or VHS, is believed to have spread to the Great Lakes via the ballast of ships. Last year
alone it caused large fish kills in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair and other waterways. It killed a variety of fish,
including muskies, walleyes, bass, perch and freshwater drum.
VHS has been called the "Ebola for fish" because it causes them to hemorrhage, killing them, much as the Ebola virus has killed
humans in Africa. It has spread from east to west; the latest confirmations came early this year from northern Lake Huron, just 20
miles from Lake Michigan and not far from the locks at Sault Ste. Marie that lead to Lake Superior.
"We know we can't keep it out of Lake Michigan," said Gary Whelan, fish production manager at the Michigan Department of Natural
"Not only is it spreading in Great Lakes waters, but we have real concerns it will spread to inland waters," he said.
But officials simply don't know how the disease will play out or how it will affect fisheries.
"It's unlikely to kill every fish," Whelan said. "It could kill a percentage of fish and then move on." It also could kill young fish,
Whelan said officials estimated 2,000 to 4,000 large muskies died from the disease last year in Lake St. Clair, where the muskie
population is estimated at 100,000.
There's a lot at stake, for anglers, aquaculture and the bait industry in all the states that border the Great Lakes, and Canada.
"Our sports fisheries is worth about $1.5 billion a year," Whelan said. "Our Great Lakes fishery is about 40 percent of that." The impact
of Great Lakes and commercial fishing in the U.S. has been estimated at $4 billion.
Another concern, Whelan said, is if VHS infects fish hatcheries.
"You may be destroying everything that's in it," he said.
Michigan has passed legislation restricting the release of ballast water in state waters.
"We hope other states follow suit, since the federal government hasn't moved fast on this issue," Whelan said.
That's exactly what Glass wants -- immediate action. He and Dave Zentner, also of Duluth, are members of the Izaak Walton League
of America. Their chapter has asked state officials to do something before it's too late.
"If we allow it to spread to the Twin Ports, the entire St. Louis River estuary will be a hot zone, from which the disease will spread
across the state," Zentner, chapter director, wrote to state officials.
Glass and Zentner want officials to require that all ballast be treated to kill any invasive hitchhikers. And with the Duluth-Superior port
soon to open, they are frustrated with the lack of action.
"We're out of patience," Zentner said.
Glass said a relatively easy and cheap fix would be to require chlorine treatment of ballast.
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said Tuesday he intends to introduce legislation in Congress that would address the ballast issue.
And chances of passage are good, he said. But it likely will take a couple of years to implement.
That's time Glass and Zentner say Lake Superior -- and Minnesota -- doesn't have.
LAKE COUNTY NEWS-CHRONICLE WARNS PUBLIC
Viewpoint: Virus threatens more Lake Superior fish
Lake County News Chronicle - 03/22/2007
As if Lake Superior doesn’t have enough things to worry about, a new fish-killing virus could threaten the biological balance of this
lake, as well as surrounding watersheds and inland lakes across Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario.
Called VHS, short for viral hemorrhagic septicemia, the virus has spread like wildfire in the lower Great Lakes. Scientists say the virus
has infected and killed fish from trout to minnows, sometimes in great numbers, and they figure this latest invasive species likely
entered the Great Lakes system via ballast water from ocean-going ships that pay visits to inland ports.
In January in Lake Huron, VHS was found in whitefish, walleye and salmon. Experts believe the virus is likely in Lake Michigan as well.
As its name implies, viral hemorrhagic septicemia kills by causing the fish to bleed to death internally.
Lake Superior is at the end of the chain and historically has always been the last lake affected by invasive species. But affected it has
been nonetheless. From the lamprey to zebra mussels to the spiny waterflea, along with chemicals such as PCBs, distance from
civilization, so to speak, still won’t protect the lake forever.
EPA scientists, fishery managers and conservation groups are calling for immediate action to mandate sterilization of ballast water in
ships moving in and within the Great Lakes.
The shipping industry at this point says that it would take years and much cost to refit the carriers with the technology to treat the
Conservationists say that’s a stall tactic. They say the technology exists in nearly every water treatment system across the country,
methods ranging from chemical treatment to ultra-violet radiation. And unless it’s made a federal mandate, the industry will be slow
to adapt on its own.
Biologists aren’t worried only about Lake Superior. If the virus arrives it might only be a matter of time before it is spread to inland
lakes and waterways by the movement of fishermen and recreational boaters. So far, aggressive educational efforts warning boaters
to not move water, bait or fish from the Great Lakes have kept zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas from migrating into inland lakes
The shipping industry has been an economic boon to the area for the last century but it has also been the host for any number of
aquatic problems that have entered the once-pristine waters of the Great Lakes. It’s time for the industry to do its part in cleaning up
after itself before all the lakes suffer another invasion.
United States Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services
Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health
Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia in the Great Lakes
Emerging Disease Notice
Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) has historically been considered to be themost serious viral disease of salmonids reared in
freshwater environments in Europe . More recently, VHS has been associated with marine finfish species, and most recently has
become an emerging disease of freshwater fish in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada .
VHS was first detected in the Great Lakes region in the Bay of Quinte, Lake Ontario , in 2005, and was subsequently detected in an
archived 2003 sample from Lake St. Clair . VHS virus also was detected in Lake St. Clair in 2005 and in Lake Ontario , Lake Erie ,
Lake St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River in 2006 in a variety of fish species. Prior to 2003, isolations of VHS virus were limited in
North America to saltwater finfish from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, including Chinook and Coho salmon, Pacific herring, Atlantic
herring and cod. Since 2005, the list of species known to be affected by VHS has risen to more than 40, including a number of
ecologically and recreationally important fish.
This Emerging Disease Notice describes the current status of viral hemorrhagic septicemia in the U.S. , focusing on the 2005 and
2006 outbreaks in the Great Lakes area. This notice also quantifies trade and production statistics for relevant fisheries products and
aquaculture resources and provides a qualitative assessment of potential risks and impacts of this disease in the event that it affects
aquaculture fish species.
How extensive is viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) in the United States?
Since Spring 2005, a number of die-offs have occurred in the Great Lakes area, including muskellunge, freshwater drum, round goby,
yellow perch, smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, gizzard shad and other fish species (Table 1). Some of these die-offs reportedly
involved large numbers of fish. VHS virus has been isolated and confirmed from these die-offs.
VHS has also been detected in samples of walleye, white bass, and silver redhorses and shorthead redhorse suckers that were not
part of a die-off and were not symptomatic. It is not known how VHS virus was transferred to the Great Lakes , or how long it has been
in the ecosystem; however, one possible scenario is that the virus may have mutated from a marine form and become newly
pathogenic to naïve freshwater fish species.
In support of this theory, genotyping of an isolate of VHS virus from muskellunge in Lake St. Clair , Michigan , has revealed an
apparently new substrain of the North American VHS genotype. Preliminary studies of the Great Lakes VHS genotype show that it
causes moderate mortality in salmonids (Lake Trout, Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout). Many recreationally important
populations of these salmonids , which were originally introduced and have since become established, exist in the upper
portion of the Great Lakes area where outbreaks of VHS have not yet been detected. In addition, cage culture of salmonids occurs on
the Ontario side of the Great Lakes , though not on the U.S. sides.
Baitfish also represent an area of concern for the potential introduction and/or spread of VHS. Fish belonging to a large number of
cyprinid and other species are collected from the Great Lakes and used as bait for sport fisheries around the U.S. Baitfish from
Canada are routinely exported to the U.S. Additionally, some aquaculture producers collect baitfish broodstock from the Great Lakes
to produce commercial baitfish in aquaculture facilities. The destinations and numbers of baitfish moved are not well documented,
and regulation of this sector is inconsistent among States, or lacking entirely.
Live sale of fish by commercial fishers is also a concern. Fish from Lake Erie are sold live in Ontario , Canada for transport to pond
aquaculture facilities in the Midwest U.S. The species, volume and destinations of these fish are not well documented.
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|Stop VHS Fish Virus - Disinfect All Ballast Water Now !