Karen Eggert (301) 734-7280
Jerry Redding (202) 720-4623
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service revised today its Federal Order on viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a highly contagious disease of some fresh and saltwater fish, to allow for catch-and-release fishing activities because they do not unduly increase the risk of introduction and spread of VHS.
The October 2006 Federal Order was established to prohibit 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. Today's revision of the Federal Order will allow for the catch-and-release of VHS-susceptible fish in waters that cross state and international boundaries. These activities include, recreational fishing, tournaments, competitions, fishing derbies or other types of contests where individuals catch, compare and release live VHS-susceptible fish. Catch-and-release fishing activities do not include the movement of VHS-susceptible fish intended to be used as live bait.
APHIS issued the initial action in response to detections of VHS for the first time 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 Federal 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 introduction of VHS into aquaculture facilities by controlling the movement of live fish species from the Great Lakes region 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.
The revised Federal Order will remain in effect until the interim rule is published. The modified and the original emergency orders putting these protections into place can be found on our Web site at /animal_health/animal_dis_spec/aquaculture/.