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Pitssburgh bans transport of fish from Lake Erie watershed over VHS worries

PITTSBURGH - The state Fish and Boat Commission, trying to reduce the potential spread of fish diseases, imposed a temporary ban on taking live fish out of the Lake Erie watershed.

The ban, which covers about 120 different species, is designed protect the health of the state's fisheries, said spokesman Dan Tredinnick said Tuesday.

"If it's in the Great Lakes, we don't want it in the inland waters," he said.

Of particular concern is viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, a virus that has been detected in the Great Lakes system in the last several years. The virus poses no human risk but causes internal bleeding in fish and has been linked to several fish kills.

The virus has long been a problem in Europe and officials are not certain how it got into the Great Lakes, but it likely came in ballast tanks of oceangoing cargo ships, considered a leading source of exotic species that are damaging the lakes' ecology.

The temporary ban will be in effect until 2008, although the commission had been planning to revise its regulations this spring to achieve what the ban does, Tredinnick said.

"We felt we should act now rather than wait any longer," he said.

The commission wants to prevent scenarios such as anglers taking minnows from the lake or watershed and putting them in waters outside the watershed, or catching a fish and deciding to stock it elsewhere.