Fish kills continue on Virginia rivers; task force expands investigation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2007
Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
Julia Dixon, DGIF
FISH KILLS CONTINUE ON VIRGINIA RIVERS;
TASK FORCE EXPANDS INVESTIGATION
RICHMOND, VA. -- The Virginia task force that began studying fish kills in the Shenandoah River system in 2005 has expanded its work to include the Cowpasture, Maury and upper James rivers. Fish that have either died or are ill have been observed in these rivers for the past several weeks.
The fish species mainly affected continue to be smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish, though other types of fish have been found with sores. The task force, headed by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, is coordinating efforts with anglers, conservation organizations and university scientists to identify the location and extent of the fish kills.
In the past three weeks, the number of reports of distressed fish has continued to increase. On the James, the fish have been found as far downstream as Lynchburg. DEQ and DGIF biologists also are investigating new reports from Buena Vista on the Maury River and the mainstem Shenandoah River.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency collected sediment samples in late May to test for toxicity and estrogen-related chemicals in some of the rivers. Water samples have been collected from the affected rivers to be tested for known fish viruses. Weekly and continuous water quality monitoring is still under way, and the task force remains in contact with counterparts in West Virginia as they investigate similar fish kills in the Potomac River system.
The task force encourages the public to provide any information on the location, number and type of fish found dead or sick in the Shenandoah, Cowpasture and James river systems. Distressed fish are found mainly in eddies and shallow areas away from the main current.
Anyone with information is asked to call the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800, or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information also can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Detailed information about the fish kills is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.
Task force investigates new fish deaths in Shenandoah watershed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bill Hayden
RICHMOND, VA. -- The Department of Environmental Quality has received reports this week of dead fish on the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River. Dead and dying smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish were found in at least three areas: a section of the North Fork several miles downstream of Woodstock, from the South Fork between Bentonville and Front Royal, and about six miles upstream of Elkton on the South Fork.
Sampling in these areas by DEQ, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and others on April 24, 2007, confirmed that problems are occurring. Though only a few dead fish were found, a number of live fish with skin lesions or abnormal behavior were observed. Live specimens were collected and immediately delivered to the Virginia Tech Veterinary School pathology lab and the U.S. Geological Survey fish health lab in Leetown, W.Va. These fish will be thoroughly examined, with evaluations for diseases, viruses, parasites and organ-by-organ anomalies.
Fish kills have begun in the Shenandoah River system during the spring of each of the past three years. The causes of these fish kills remain unknown. The kills have occurred at low rates, have lasted for extended periods, and have affected primarily adult smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish. In some areas adult smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish numbers have been reduced by an estimated 80 percent. DEQ and DGIF, along with partners in the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, have been seeking the causes of these fish kills since 2004.
DEQ and DGIF have been monitoring the river almost daily during the spring of 2007. Except for two small, isolated, short-term incidents, no notable fish kills have been found this spring until now.
The partners of the fish kill task force will continue to monitor the river closely for water quality and fish issues. Crews are canvassing the North and South Forks and the mainstem Shenandoah at multiple points this week.