Senate Committee Passes $2 Million for Whirling Disease Research
6/23/2000 — — Contact:
Steve Moyer, Vice President for Conservation Programs, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9406
Maggie Lockwood, Press Relations Director, Trout Unlimited (703) 284-9425
June 22, 2000. Arlington, VA…Trout Unlimited applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee’s passage of $2 million for continued whirling disease (WD) research today. Led by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Senator Max S. Baucus (D-MT), the committee restored $1 million in federal funding for WD research that the Administration proposed cutting earlier this year. WD is caused by a microscopic parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis, that attacks the cartilage of juvenile trout and salmon. The effects of the disease include frenzied tail chasing or “whirling” by fish when they are feeding or are alarmed, skeletal deformities, and heavy mortalities of young fish.
Once considered just a problem in hatcheries, WD became a national crisis in 1994 when researchers discovered that the disease in the Colorado River, Colo. and the Madison River, Mont., where the disease killed up to 90 percent of the wild rainbow trout populations. WD is now 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.
“The Administration’s 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,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s Vice President for Conservation Programs. “The committee’s passage will likely allow desperately needed whirling disease research to continue.”
The Senate Committee passed $2 million for the continuation of activities begun in FY97 to combat WD and related fish health issues. This is an increase of $8,000 above the funding provided for FY00. Within the total amount provided for WD, $700,000 is for the National Partnership on the Management of Wild and Native Cold Water Fisheries and $1,300,000 is provided to expand the National Wild Fish Health Survey to expand WD investigations and to recruit and train health professionals. The Committee’s bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration, and then to a House/Senate Conference Committee.
“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 whirling disease to protect themselves from further spread. But we are a long way away from taking back America’s blue ribbon fisheries from the wrath of whirling disease.”
In 1999, Trout Unlimited published a comprehensive report on “Whirling Disease in the United States” (see below) 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 the spread of WD.
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.