November 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm #1495MikeKeymaster
Dead, diseased fish found in Shenandoah, its branches
The Associated Press
Apr 29, 2007 12:51 PM (1 day ago)
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Harrisonburg, Va. – Scattered fish kills have been found in the Shenandoah River and its branches, continuing a disturbing spring trend that dates back to 2003.
Anglers and state scientists are reporting hundreds of dead and sick fish in the Shenandoah River and
its north and south forks. The fish apparently began dying the weekend of April 21-22.
“We’re seeing dead and dying fish on numerous locations on those rivers,” said Bill Hayden, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The DEQ asked the public to report fish deaths so scientists can document the affected area and collect specimens to study.
Don Kain, a biologist at the Department of Environmental Quality and co-leader of the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, said dead and diseased fish have been found at various points of the river.
They included dead or diseased fish found at Island Ford, near McGaheysville; on a section of the North Fork of the Shenandoah about six miles from Woodstock; and on the South Fork of the river between Bentonville and Front Royal.
Kain and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Steve Reeser also collected about 30 smallmouth bass near Port Republic and said five or six showed some signs of stress.
“There are some fish with heavy mucus and lesions,” Reeser said. “All are signs of what we have seen with previous kills.”
Last spring, hundreds of northern hogsucker fish died in the main stem of the Shenandoah, while smallmouth bass and sunfish were found dead in the north and south forks of the river.
In 2005, 80 percent of the South Forks smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish died, and a similar kill occurred on the North Fork in 2004.
Kain said the number of dead or diseased fish has decreased this year – not because the river is healthier, but because the river’s fish population has experienced such a significant decrease in the last three years due to the previous kills.
Reeser said he was unable to find any redbreast sunfish during a visit to the river last week.
“They are nonexistent,” he said. “Normally, this section of the river would be full of sunfish. I think they’ve been really impacted by the kills of the last few years.”
Dead or diseased fish are sent to either a U.S. Geological Survey lab in Leetown, W.Va., or a veterinary lab at Virginia Tech.
The most likely reasons for fish kills have already been ruled out. To date, officials have no explanation for the symptoms of chronic stress that the dead fish displayed. Many bore lesions that resembled cigar burns and some were intersex – males with female characteristics.
Fish samples in the past have been analyzed for viruses, bacteria and parasites, but this year scientists will also look for similarities to fish diseases that have been discovered in other areas.
The fish deaths have hurt the tourism and recreation industries in the Shenandoah Valley, state officials say.
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