View Full Version : The peril of using diseased bait

14-07-2007, 09:50 AM
Warnings have appeared here a few times about the perils of using imported prawns as bait because of the possibility of diseases carried by the prawns that could do serious damage to our wild fish populations.

It seems such a problem has hit the Yanks with anglers in Michigan now having a regulation that requires them to carry a receipt for seven days for bait which certifies where the bait is from and where it can be used.

The following is an article from today's New York Times.

http://myskitch.com/charleville/the_new_york_times___national___slide_show___michi gan_s_fishing_woes-20070714-094428.png

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — Here in Michigan, the fisherman’s paradise all but surrounded by water, angling for a prized catch is about to become a lot more complicated.

Michigan's Fishing Woes
Just in time for the summer fishing season, the state has adopted sweeping regulations intended to slow the spread of a virulent disease that has killed thousands of fish, including some of the most popular game species, in four of the five Great Lakes.

In acting, Michigan joins the seven other Great Lakes states, all of which either have adopted rules to fight the disease or are now drafting them. In Michigan’s case, dealers who sell bait to retailers will have to disclose whether that bait is disease-free. The stores will then have to provide detailed receipts to anglers telling where the bait came from and where it can be used: tainted bait will be permitted in water that itself is already tainted, but not elsewhere.

And fishermen, who will be expected to carry that receipt for seven days, will have to empty water from their bait buckets and from their boats’ live wells and bilges before moving from one body of water to another.

“It’s going to make a lot of work for us; it’s going to cost us a lot of money,” said one bait retailer, Ron Both, who for 32 years has owned B J’s Sports here in St. Joseph, on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. “I hate to say it, but I think it’s going to discourage some people from fishing.”

The disease, called V.H.S., is caused by a virus that is not believed to be harmful to humans but brings about internal bleeding in fish. The affliction is still largely a mystery.

“We don’t know how bad it might be, so we’ve had to take very drastic measures,” said Jim Dexter, the Lake Michigan Basin coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We are not wanting to be in a place where we have to shut down industries, especially here in Michigan, where our economy is just terrible.”

The eight states bordering the Great Lakes have been battling invasive species for two centuries, but some officials say this virus is particularly nasty and could seriously damage the region’s $5 billion fishing industry. So in recent months, five of the states — New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, along with Michigan — have enacted rules that officials hope will serve to slow the spread of the disease. In Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota, such rules are in the drafting stage.

Michigan’s regulations, which began taking effect at the end of June and will be phased in over the summer, are focused mostly on the bait industry.

“Someone who catches 500,000 of one kind of minnow in Lake Huron can run around all over the state and distribute minnows in a truck to bait shops,” Mr. Dexter said. “If they’re infected, they’ve now infected all the stores. And anglers go to an exponential number of lakes.”

Officials say they cannot stop the virus from spreading further through the Great Lakes, but they hope to prevent it from entering as many inland lakes and streams as possible. That itself will be a challenge, they say, in part because anglers in search of the next great catch can be just as migratory as the fish they pursue.

“We’re a very mobile society,” said Ron Payer, fisheries management chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which expects to announce its rules later this summer. “If we want to maintain and protect these aquatic resources that are a major life stream to people economically and recreationally, then we’re going to have to do some things differently.”

V.H.S., formally viral hemorrhagic septicemia, is fatal to some of the most popular game fish in the region, like walleye and yellow perch, and is also found in some baitfish, like the emerald shiner. It is easily spread not only through contaminated bait but also through ships’ ballast water or tainted water from live wells.

The virus is believed to have arrived in 2002 or 2003 in the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. Since 2005, it has killed fish in Lakes Ontario, Huron, Erie and St. Clair, and has been detected in the St. Lawrence, St. Clair and Niagara Rivers and, most recently, in Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake, and in the northern waters of Lake Michigan, on the Wisconsin side.

Lake Superior is so far free of the disease, but some officials fear that the virus will soon show up there and then enter the 31 states of the Mississippi River Basin.

So, pondering the headaches that rules like Michigan’s promise to bring, Theresa Broadhurst, the owner of the Fishin Hole bait shops in St. Joseph and the nearby town of Coloma, said a nuisance now might preserve recreational fishing for years to come.

“Ten years from now,” Ms. Broadhurst said, “if V.H.S. comes into every body of water and kills fish, what do we have? We have nothing. If they don’t control it now, it is going to affect our future.”

Not that everyone is so welcoming. Among a few dozen anglers fishing off the South Pier at the mouth of the St. Joseph River the other day, even those who had heard of the new rules wondered how the state would enforce them.

“I don’t know if I would carry a receipt,” Richard Smith said as he gathered up the large summer steelhead trout he had caught that morning. “It’s just another aggravation. I think it’s silly. Pretty soon they’re going to start telling us what color boat we need.”

14-07-2007, 10:22 AM
What what I can read (actually understand) people are complianing about carrying another piece of paper.
Bugger them. I'd rather know I'm not doing any harm then run the gauntlet and possibly stuff up an eco-system and in doing so stuffing up my past-time in the future.
The last few paragraphs pretty well sum up what would happen here if something like that ever happened.
On one side the people wanting to do the right thing to preserve what they have and on the other side of the coin the people that are only interested in today and stuff the future..time for that problem when it gets here so don't annoy me today mentality
The same arguement (about paperwork and the inconvenience) was going around NSW when the license issue came up. I'd don't reckon anybody thinks twice about it down there now and look at the good it's doing.
How many were saying how those brag mats were??
Gees I hope something like that never happens here though...devastating :(

14-07-2007, 01:31 PM
Thanks very much for that post Charleville. I'm going to pass that along for sure. I hope my state starts getting its act together. The article says Illinois is still in the "drafting stage" so that should mean in another 2 or 3 thousand years, they'll get something hammered out.

I haven't caught or seen any fish with the disease but I've talked to some on a local fishing site who have. They mention that it isn't harmful to humans. Hmmmmmm..... I think I'd pass on eating them anyway.

Arrrggggh! It's always something!


I agree with you. That guy who was whining about having to carry a piece of paper. He's cruisin' for a bruisin'. If it helps to keep the spread of the disease limited, it's worth it!

Thanks again Charleville!