TU Praises Montana Congressional Delegation
10/13/2000 -- -- Contact: Steve Moyer, Vice President for Conservation Programs, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9406
October 13, 2000. Arlington, VA . . . Two million dollars in crucial whirling disease ("WD") research funds were signed into law on October 12, despite attempts by the Administration to cut the funding earlier this year. Trout Unlimited applauded the Montana congressional delegation for helping to restore the federal funding. WD is caused by a microscopic parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis, that attacks the cartilage of trout and salmon. The disease's effects include frenzied tail chasing or "whirling" by fish when they are eating or are alarmed, skeletal deformities, and heavy mortalities of young fish.
Once considered a problem only in hatcheries, WD became a national crisis in 1994 when researchers discovered the disease in the Colorado River in Colorado and the Madison River in Montana, where the disease killed up to 90 percent of the wild rainbow trout populations. The WD parasite has been found in at least 22 states. Since 1994, the federal government has spearheaded a public-private partnership to understand how the disease operates in the wild and how it can be stopped.
"America's fight against whirling disease remains an uphill battle," said Steve Moyer, TU's Vice President for Conservation Programs. "The Administration's original proposal to cut funding ignored the extensive damage the disease has caused as it has spread through some of our nation's finest rivers and fisheries. Thankfully, our Montana congressional delegation worked effectively with House and Senate Appropriators to ensure the $2 million needed for continued WD research was signed into law."
In June, at the urging of the Montana congressional delegation, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed $2 million for the continuation of activities begun in FY97 to combat WD and related fish health issues. This follows closely on the heels of similar action taken by the House Appropriations Committee, which also rejected the Administration's proposal. The Whirling Disease Foundation and other conservation groups joined with Trout Unlimited in opposing those cuts.
"Whirling disease is nothing to play Washington budget games with," said Moyer. "Past research has made great strides in influencing the practices of responsible fishery management and has allowed states infected with WD to begin protecting themselves from further transmissions. But we are a long way away from taking back America's blue ribbon fisheries from WD's wrath."
In 1999, Trout Unlimited published a comprehensive report on "Whirling Disease in the United States" detailing the parasitic infection that has been linked to the dramatic declines in wild trout populations in several Western rivers. To date, TU has raised and dedicated $250,000 and countless volunteer hours to fight WD's spread.
Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU's 125,000 members in 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.