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Whirling Disease Scare Closes Hatchery

US - Kamas Fish Hatchery, in Kamas, Utah has closed for at least the next year due to concerns that spring waters feeding the state facility may have been tainted by whirling disease.

State hatchery director, Ted Hallows told The Salt Lake Tribune that he noticed a reduction in flow of the spring feeding the hatchery for years. This summer nearby Beaver Creek was so low that local cabin and home owners started to wonder what was happening.

In mid-September a sink hole was discovered about 3/4 of a mile above the hatchery. The stream has been redivereted back into the channel and fish in the system survived, but state wildlife officials are concerned that the Beaver Creek water could have mixed with spring water.

Whirling disease, the often fatal trout malady, has been confirmed in Beaver Creek above the sinkhole, but tests, the most recent completed in late September, show the fish in the hatchery as free of the disease.

“Even though the fish in the hatchery appear to be free of the disease, we’ve learned to be extremely cautious when dealing with fish diseases,” Chris Wilson, a pathologist at the Division of Wildlife Resources’ Fisheries Experiment Station in Logan, said in a release. “We don’t want to spread disease from one hatchery to another, or from a hatchery to the wild.”

The Kamas hatchery annually produces about 150,000 pounds of fish, which mostly are stocked in lakes in the Uinta Mountains, will be closed for disinfecting and until an ultra-violet filtration device can be installed to prevent any chance of whirling disease entering the raceways from the spring water.

Walt Donaldson, chief of aquatics for the DWR, said the Kamas hatchery will not produce fish again until late 2011 at the earliest, but that the newly refurbished Springville Hatchery can help compensate for the loss of production at Kamas.

the Fish Site Editor

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