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Shelley Osterloh ReportingWhirling Disease has been discovered at the state's largest fish hatchery. The Springville Hatchery provides nearly 20% of the fish that are stocked. It’s possible all 750-thousand of them will have to be destroyed.
Whirling disease is a condition caused by a parasite that eats cartilage and can cause deformities in the fish's spine. During a routine inspection, fish pathologists discovered the parasite in some of the Rainbow Trout at the Springville Hatchery. Since the spores are carried in the water all of the fish at the hatchery are quarantined.
Joe Valentine, Division of Wildlife Resources: "We have to probably dispose of those fish and not stock them. So it’s gong to leave our stocking program short probably about 18 percent on our catchables. And I'm not sure how many of the smaller fish that we’ll be short."
The Springville hatchery has been at risk since the discovery of Whirling Disease in the Provo River and Hobble Creek, which are adjacent to the hatchery. Wildlife officials say only a few local small ponds have been stocked with the infected fish from Springville.
Joe Valentine, Division of Wildlife Resources: "So it’s probably early in the game, so we are lucky to have caught it as we did, this time."
It’s not the first time. The Midway Hatchery was shut down because of Whirling disease in 2000 and the Mammoth Creek hatchery was infected in 2002. Now both are producing fish again.
So will anglers have fewer fish to catch?
Joe Valentine, Division of Wildlife Resources: "Even though the fish we stock may not be as numerous, I think their ability to survive will be better. So the fishing will be as good or better than it was last year I think."
That's because water conditions are better than they've been in years.
Whirling Disease can be fatal for fish but experts say it doesn't harm humans who may eat infected fish.
More Information from the Springville Fish HatcherySalt Lake City (April 28, 2005) -- Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes whirling disease, has been discovered in rainbow trout at the Springville State Fish Hatchery, fish pathologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources announced today.
The discovery was made during a routine, annual inspection of the hatchery in April. The Springville hatchery is in the town of Springville in north-central Utah. The hatchery has been considered at risk since the discovery of whirling disease in the Provo River and Hobble Creek, which are adjacent to the hatchery.
In response to the finding, all stocking of fish from the hatchery has ceased while an emergency response team evaluates the extent of the infection and explores options for disposition of the fish with the Utah Fish Health Policy Board.
Hatcheries Producing Additional Fish
Recently remodeled state hatcheries at Kamas and Fountain Green have greatly expanded their fish production, which will lessen the impact of closing the Springville hatchery. A recent pilot study also has shown more economic methods for disinfecting hatchery water supplies. It's hoped these affordable methods will allow the DWR to reopen the Springville hatchery sooner than it could in the past.
"The remodeled hatcheries at Kamas and Fountain Green are providing more fish than they ever have, and the Midway and Mammoth Creek hatcheries have recently reopened and are producing fish again," said Jim Karpowitz, director of the Division of Wildlife Resources.
"We also have the best water conditions we've had in Utah in years, so there are plenty of reasons for Utah anglers to be excited about fishing this year," he said. "It should be a great year to gather your family together and go fishing."