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Fish disease regulations for New York finalized
Written by The Ithaca Journal   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 12:45

The restrictions on bait fish, designed to prevent the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia in New York waters, have been in effect since last winter. After considerable public comment, the regulations were altered and reconfigured several times, but the last word — in the form of a final draft — was adopted last Wednesday.

There is no known cure for VHS, which was first confirmed in New York waters in May 2006 in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The virus is nearly always fatal to fish, but does not pose any threat to human health. Nevertheless, the disease does have the potential for profound socio-economic problems if it spreads, hence the regulations.

The state, in cooperation with Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, has sampled fish from waters across the state and — except for Conesus Lake — VHS has not been confirmed in fish from any New York water outside the Great Lakes basin.
A federal order restricts the transportation of fish from interstate and international waters, but does not address the movement of fish within New York. Hence the state regulations.

Highlights of the final New York regulations:

* Limit the personal use of bait fish to the same water body from which they were collected. Overland transport of personally and commercially collected bait fish in a motorized vehicle is prohibited. Also, bait fish can be taken from a water body's tributaries upstream of the first impassable barrier for use on such water body.

* Require that bait fish sold by wholesalers and in retail outlets for use in water other than from which they were collected, are certified as free of specified fish pathogens and are accompanied by a fish health inspection report. The retailer must also provide the purchaser with a dated receipt of the transaction, which must be retained by the purchaser while in possession of the bait fish. Anglers will have seven days from the date of purchase to use the bait fish.

* Clarify where marine bait fish may be transported.

* Allow dead bait fish packaged for commercial purposes and preserved by methods other than by freezing only be sold and used wherever it is legal to use bait fish. Specific package labeling requirements are included in the regulations.

* Require that all live fish destined for release in New York be certified free of certain fish pathogens.

* Allow live fish other than bait fish caught from the non-New York portion of an interstate or international water body be transported on the water and released into the New York portion of the water body. This provision allows for catch and release tournaments to occur on those bodies of water.
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