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USDA MODIFIES RESTRICTIONS REGARDING THE MOVEMENT OF LIVE FISH SUSCEPTIBLE TO VIRAL HEMORRHAGIC SEPTICEMIA

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Hallie Pickhardt (301) 734-0602
Jerry Redding (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2006--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service modified today an Oct. 24, 2006, emergency order prohibiting the importation of 37 species of live fish from two Canadian provinces into the United States and the interstate movement of the same species from the eight states bordering the Great Lakes.

These modifications will allow Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to move interstate live species of fish susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) if they can meet certain conditions designed to prevent the spread of the disease, which isn't harmful to people but can be deadly to fish.

APHIS issued the initial action in response to several detections of VHS, a significant disease of some ocean-going fish detected for the first time in recent years in fresh-water fish in several of the Great Lakes and related tributaries. VHS is responsible for several large-scale die-offs of wild fish in the Great Lakes region.

The original emergency order was issued in response to the rapid spread of VHS in the Great Lakes region and the potential impact of the disease on a growing number of fish species, including species of fish raised commercially in the United States. The intent of the Federal Order is to prevent the movement of wild-caught baitfish and other fish species from the Great Lakes at risk of harboring the VHS virus while APHIS gathers more information on the disease and puts in place a federal regulatory program that allows for the interstate movement of fish susceptible to VHS via testing and certification.

Following the release of the Federal Order, APHIS convened a two day meeting at its headquarters in Riverdale, Maryland, on October 31 and November 1, 2006, to discuss VHS and the development of a federal regulatory program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state regulators and industry representatives from the Great Lakes region and other areas of the country. During this meeting, APHIS received several recommendations from participants regarding modifications to the Federal Order that could be made to alleviate the impact of the Federal Order on industry and related businesses in the Great Lakes region while still protecting against the spread of VHS to other areas of the country.

Today's announcement acts on the recommendations presented to APHIS during the state and industry meeting. These new requirements allow fish industries in the eight Great Lake states to move susceptible species interstate while also protecting against the spread of VHS.

With the exception of salmonids, the movement of susceptible species of live fish from Quebec and Ontario into the United States remain prohibited under the revised Federal Order. APHIS will be drafting an interim rule to further address the movement of fish from Canada and the Great Lakes states.

Under the revised Federal Order, conditions for the interstate movement of VHS-susceptible species vary depending on whether the live fish are being transported for slaughter, research or other purposes.

In order for VHS-susceptible species to move interstate for slaughter, the fish must be:

  • Intended for human consumption.
  • Transported to a state-inspected slaughter facility that discharges waste water into a municipal sewage system that includes waste water treatment. As an alternative, the facility can also dispose of waste water in a non-discharging, settling pond or a settling pond that disinfects according to federal and state requirements. Offal, including carcasses, from the slaughter facility must be either rendered or composted.
  • Accompanied by the proper USDA documentation for the movement of restricted animals if not tested for VHS.

In order for VHS-susceptible species to move to research and diagnostic laboratories, the fish must be:

  • Accompanied by the proper USDA documentation for the movement of restricted animals stating the fish are destined for a research or diagnostic laboratory. The laboratory must be approved by the state, tribal or federal authorities for aquatic animal health.
  • Received at a facility where waste fluids and carcasses are considered medical waste and disposed of according to federal and state requirements.

In order to move VHS-susceptible species for purposes other than slaughter, research or diagnostics, the fish must be transported with documentation from appropriate state, tribal, or federal authorities for aquatic animal health stating that the fish have tested negative for the VHS virus under existing national and international standards specified in the Federal Order.

These restrictions do not apply to live species of VHS-susceptible fish originating from non-restricted states. Fish from states not included in the Federal order can transit the affected Great Lakes states without oversight.

The modified and the original emergency orders putting these protections into place can be found on our Website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/aqua/.

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