VHS fish virus nears Lake Michigan

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
1 February 2007, at 12:00am

MICHIGAN - A nasty fish-killing virus recently discovered in the eastern Great Lakes is now poised to spill into Lake Michigan.

State of Michigan officials announced last week that viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, has been confirmed in northern Lake Huron, only about 20 miles east of where it merges with Lake Michigan - an approximately 200-mile advance in its known range from just last fall. State fishery officials say it's probably only a matter of time before the virus that bleeds its victims to death spills into our waters.

VHS poses no threat to humans, but fishery experts fret that it could wreak havoc on the entire Great Lakes fishery, and the $4.5 billion commercial and recreational industry that it supports.

Nobody knows how the disease made its way into the Great Lakes. It was first detected in Lake Ontario in 2005 and has subsequently been found in the St. Lawrence River, as well as Lakes Erie and St. Clair. Researchers now believe it has been in the Great Lakes at least since 2003.

Scientists confirmed its presence in Lake Huron only after re-analyzing samples from fish collected during a 2005 survey.

"It is the most serious fish disease problem that we've seen," said Wisconsin fish health veterinarian Myron Kebus.

Bill Horns, Great Lakes fisheries coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said it's too early to say exactly how it might affect Lake Michigan's popular but fragile recreational fishing industry, but the risk is real.

Source: JSOnline