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Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia; Interstate Movement

US - The US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), are establishing an interim rule that will restrict the interstate movement and importation into the United States of live fish that are susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia.

APHIS welcomes debate on this subject. They say that viral hemorrhagic septicemia is a highly contagious disease of certain fresh and saltwater fish.

In 2005 and 2006, viral hemorrhagic septicemia 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 claim that his action is necessary to prevent further introductions into, and dissemination within, the United States of viral hemorrhagic septicemia.This interim rule follows a Federal Order issued by APHIS in Oct. 24, 2006, in response to the rapid spread of the disease. The Order protected aquaculture facilities by controlling the movement of VHS-susceptible fish species until APHIS learned more about the disease and developed a regulatory program. APHIS worked closely with states, tribes and other interested stakeholders, as well as the Canadian government, when developing this interim rule.

Under this interim rule, the fish must originate in a facility that has conducted laboratory analysis on fish, has been found to be VHS-free and be accompanied by an interstate certification of inspections. Fish moved for slaughter or research purposes can travel without conducting laboratory analysis; however, they must be: transported in a sealed conveyance, accompanied by proper APHIS documentation and transported to a facility that discharges its waste to a municipal sewage system that includes waste water treatment or an approved alternative.

The rule continues to allow live salmonid VHS-regulated fish to be imported into the United States from the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec in accordance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. It also establishes specific conditions for live non-salmonid VHS-regulated fish to be imported from VHS-regulated regions. The shipment must be accompanied by all proper APHIS documentation, moved in new or properly disinfected containers and inspected by an APHIS official at the port of entry.

VHS-regulated species imported for slaughter or for research must be accompanied by an import permit, as well as be inspected and officially sealed by an APHIS official at the port of entry. The fish must be transported directly from the port of entry to a slaughter or research establishment that discharges its waste water through an approved mechanism to ensure the disease does not spread. Offal, including carcasses, from the slaughter or research facility must be either rendered or composted.

These measures are necessary to prevent the spread of VHS in the United States. Since 2005, this disease has been detected in wild freshwater fish involving large die-offs in several of the Great Lakes and related tributaries in the United States and Canada. Currently APHIS regulates 28 species of fish, but additional species might be added over time.

While VHS detections have been limited to states in the Great Lakes region, APHIS also is seeking comments on developing standardized regulations for the entire United States should it be necessary.