Like something out of science fiction, a deadly, alien fish virus is set to invade Quebec waterways, threatening the province’s multi-billion-dollar recreational fishing industry.
The highly contagious and adaptable virus, viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), was first identified in the 1950s in farmed fish in Europe. By 2005, it had found its way into the Great Lakes, most likely from international vessels flushing their ballasts containing the virus into the lakes, say Ontario Natural Resources wildlife officials. Its spread was exacerbated by the transport and release of infected bait fish into uncontaminated waters by sports fishermen.
As it spread, the virus killed tens of thousands of fish. In 2005, 91 tonnes of freshwater drum were killed in Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. In 2006, there were die-offs of yellow perch in Lake Erie and muskellunge in the St. Lawrence River. In 2007, large die-offs of bass occurred in the Finger Lakes region of western New York state. There have also been confirmed die-offs of salmon, musky and walleye (doré), as well as numerous minnow species. As the dead fish decompose, the virus is released and continues to spread.
Though devastating to the 50 species of fish it infects (causing haemorrhaging of internal organs and tissues, resulting in death), “the virus does not affect humans and fish carrying the VHS virus are safe to eat and handle,” according to Ontario Natural Resources. Read More