Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Regs To Control Spread Of VHS Warn Of Ballast Water Pathway

Sep 9: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a Federal Register notice [73 FR 52173-52189] establishing interim regulations to restrict the interstate movement and importation into the United States of live fish that are susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a highly contagious disease of certain fresh and saltwater fish. In 2005 and 2006, VHS was detected in freshwater fish in several of the Great Lakes and related tributaries. The disease has been responsible for several large-scale die-offs of wild fish in the Great Lakes region. APHIS said the action is necessary to prevent further introductions into, and dissemination within, the United States of VHS. The Interim Rule is scheduled to become effective November 10, 2008, and comments on the interim rule are due on or before November 10, 2008. Comments on the separate environmental assessment (EA) document are due on or before October 9, 2008.

On October 24, 2006, APHIS issued a Federal Order prohibiting the importation of VHS-susceptible species of live fish from two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec) into the United States and the interstate movement of the same species of live fish from the eight States bordering the Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). At the time the Federal Order was issued, only three States (Michigan, New York, and Ohio) had been affected by VHS within the jurisdictional borders of their States. Following various meetings and consultations, a modified Federal Order was issued which established conditions under which VHS-susceptible species of live fish could be moved from the eight States bordering the Great Lakes.

On May 4, 2007, APHIS modified the Federal Order to allow for the catch-and-release of VHS-susceptible regulated fish in waters that cross State and international boundaries. On November 8, 2007, APHIS modified the Federal Order by revising the list of VHS-susceptible species -- 12 species were removed and 2 added. Currently, there are 28 separate species of fish listed. Finally, on April 2, 2008, APHIS modified the Federal Order to allow VHS-susceptible species of live non-salmonid fish from affected Canadian provinces to be imported into the United States for direct slaughter if accompanied by an APHIS permit.

APHIS indicates that the new interstate movement and importation requirements are discussed in detail in the Interim Rule. It also indicates, ". . . the AHPA authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to prohibit or restrict the importation or movement in interstate commerce of any animal, article, or means of conveyance if the Secretary determines that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent the introduction or dissemination of any pest or disease of livestock into or within the United States. Ballast water (i.e., water with its suspended matter taken on board a ship to control trim, list, draught, stability, or stresses of a ship) can be taken onto a ship in its port of origin and discharged into the water body of the ship's destination port, making it a potential pathway for VHS virus. APHIS has neither the regulatory authority nor the technical expertise to safely regulate ballast water discharge. Therefore, we do not address ballast water in this interim rule. APHIS will assist the U.S. Coast Guard, which has clear regulatory authority for ballast water, in their development of ballast water discharge standards."

Access the docket for this action to review and submit comments and access documents including the EA and economic assessment (click here). Access a list of species regulated by the order (click here).

NOAA Has New NOS Great Lakes Regional Coordinator

Sep 8: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) has announced that in July of 2008, NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) placed Heather Stirratt as the new NOS Great Lakes regional coordinator. Part of NOAA, NOS delivers a dynamic range of nation-wide coastal and Great Lakes scientific, technical, and resource management services in support of safe, healthy and productive oceans and coasts. Ms. Stirratt has worked with NOAA for almost 10 years. She has experience working for the National Marine Fisheries Service as a Fisheries Management Specialist and with NOS as Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator. The Assistant Administrator for NOS, John Dunnigan, recently stated that, “We know that our mission in the Great Lakes is extensive across NOS programs. We are pleased to offer Great Lake constituents a new way of interacting with us."

As an employee of the NOAA Coastal Services Center, Ms. Stirratt is working to better integrate NOS programs and enhance connections with customers and partners. GLC said the position will be key in building partnership bridges at the local level and elevating NOAA’s Ocean Service's work in the Great Lakes region.

Access the GLC announcement with additional details and contact information (click here). Access the NOAA NOS website for more information (click here).

Possible New Methods To Control Spread Of Round Goby

Sep 2: Scientists have discovered that certain chemicals may be useful in slowing the spread of the round goby, an invasive fish species that is threatening parts of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. When released near the bottom of a river or lake, two fish pesticides are effective in controlling this bottom-dwelling invader, particularly where dissolved oxygen is low, while leaving native species unharmed. Theresa Schreier, lead author of this research, published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research said, "Selective removal of round gobies may be possible with bottom-release pesticides. This work shows the value of understanding how an invasive species differs from native populations in the way that it lives in an ecosystem and basing control measures on a unique vulnerability of the invader."

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, WI evaluated four currently registered fish pesticides (antimycin, rotenone, 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM), and Bayluscide) for their toxicity to round gobies. Round gobies were sensitive to all four chemicals; unfortunately, the level of sensitivity was similar to native fish species tested. Further testing revealed that formulations of Bayluscide and antimycin that can be released near the bottom of a body of water showed promise as control agents because round gobies did not react or appear to detect the presence of these chemicals.

USGS scientists also evaluated the effect of dissolved oxygen concentrations on toxicity to determine if a modification of the current design of the Illinois Waterway could be an effective tool in the management and control of round gobies. Round goby can withstand low dissolved oxygen concentrations, and during lab tests gobies showed increased sensitivity to bottom-release fish pesticides at lower oxygen levels. Some portions of the Illinois Waterway have low oxygen levels and are mechanically aerated, providing an option to manage a segment of the waterway as an anoxic barrier. USGS said managers could explore the option of maintaining a low dissolved oxygen zone that could be treated with selective fish pesticides to control congregations of the bottom-dwelling round goby.

Access a release from USGS with links to additional information (
click here). Access more information on the Invasive Species Research Program at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (click here).