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VHS protection measures proposed

Published (3/7/2008)
By Nick Busse
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A House division approved a package of measures designed to prevent the deadly viral hemorrhagic septicemia fish virus from spreading into Minnesota waters.

HF3550, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), represents the Department of Natural Resources’ recommendations for curbing the spread of VHS — a fatal and highly contagious pathogen that causes internal hemorrhaging in fish. The House Game, Fish and Forestry Division approved the bill March 5.

Roy Johannes, a fisheries program consultant for the DNR, said the bill’s provisions would restrict the movement of potentially contaminated fish and fishing equipment, and allow the department to track the movement of fish that are potential carriers of the virus.

Some of the new restrictions would include:

• new certification and licensing requirements for those who import, stock or farm fish susceptible to VHS;

• a ban on fishing equipment used in VHS-infected waters from being used in non-infected waters;

• a requirement that minnow farmers have their minnows tested for diseases;

• a ban on using bait from VHS-infected waters; and

• a repeal of a law allowing persons age 16 or younger to transport fish home for use in an aquarium.

Division Chairman Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) asked Johannes whether it is necessary to bar children from taking wild fish home for their aquariums, remarking, “I hate to see the kids get caught on this hook.”

Johannes replied that fish taken for aquariums undergo stress that makes them more susceptible to disease, and added that many of those fish end up getting thrown back into public waters when they outgrow the aquariums.

Rep. Dean Simpson (R-Perham) and Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) expressed concern that the requirement for minnow farmers to have their stocks tested for diseases could place an undue financial burden on the state’s aquaculture industry.

“Are we trying to control a possible problem, or are we trying to price somebody out of business?” Simpson asked.

The bill now goes to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It has no Senate companion.

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