SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Acting Director Sam Flood today applauded the actions of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for reconsidering a comprehensive ban on live import/exports of certain fish species throughout the Great Lakes region to control the spread of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS).
Earlier this week, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued an amended federal order that replaces the original order for VHS issued on October 24, 2006. The amended order now allows for interstate movement of VHS-susceptible live species of fish as long as they meet certain conditions. This order affects the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
“The amended order addresses some of the concerns that Illinois’ aquaculture industry had in regard to shipping fish that were destined for human consumption by allowing movement of fish to slaughter facilities,” said Flood. “These fish may now be moved, even if they are not tested for VHS, as long as they have a permit from an area APHIS office.”
Procedures to allow for permits are currently being worked out with the Illinois USDA/APHIS office. Fish destined for research and diagnostic facilities will also fall under these procedures.
Last month, Director Flood sent a letter to APHIS asking that the agency reconsider its original order that would have put an undue financial hardship on Great Lake States aquaculture industry.
Had the original order remained in effect, estimated direct impacts of the 37 restricted species alone would have been $2.28 million per year in lost sales revenue for Illinois. VHS poses no threat to humans, and even if the virus were located at an Illinois aquaculture facility, it poses little danger for spread to other aquaculture operations.
The State, Tribal or Federal fishery facilities from the eight states that have been identified as VHS-affected or at-risk, may export fish if they have certification showing the fish are VHS free. The testing must be conducted according to procedures developed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service/American Fisheries Society, or by the World Organization for Animal Health for Import and Export. The receiving state must agree to the shipment of those fish.
A list of those VHS-susceptible species affected by this order is located on the APHIS Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/aqua/.