Wildlife officials in Montana have closed a 183-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River as well as hundreds of miles of other rivers. The move forbids all fishing, rafting and other human activities. in order to prevent the spread of a parasite.
The parasite is thought to have killed thousands of fish already. It is believed it could be spread by human activity. The closure will be disastrous for fishing guides and rafting operators, and others who depend on the busy summer season for income.The closure will be indefinite but could last for months if fish keep dying and conditions do not improve. Even when the system reopens the die-off could have a negative effect on the trout fishery which attracts people from many countries. Andrea Jones, spokesperson for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said: This kill is unprecedented in magnitude. We haven’t seen something like this in Montana.” So far 4,000 dead fish had been counted although it is estimated that the actual amount is in the tens of thousands. Although most appear to be mountain whitefish, some rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which are crucial to local fishing were also found.
Fortunately, so far no dead fish have been found in Yellowstone National Park which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. There were no plans to close waters within the park. The parasite causes fish to contract a fatal kidney disease. In the past two decades the disease has been detected just twice but has appeared in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It does not pose a health risk to people.
Low water levels are exacerbating the problem as it adds to the stress on cold water fish such as trout and whitefish. In other outbreaks the disease has persisted until the water temperatures have dropped. The ban applies from just north of Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary to the city of Laurel, as well as tributaries running into the Yellowstone along the stretch.
Dan Gigone, a fishing guide who owns the Sweetwater Fly Shop in the town of Livingstone said one of his guides saw hundreds of dead fish including trout. He said although the closure was catastrophic for him, he would not fight it. He said: "We have trips on the books through Septembe. It's definitely a big part of the Livingston and area economy. But we need to protect the resources as best we can for future years." The parasite is not native to the area and has been introduced by boats, waders, or possibly birds as well. Dan Garren of the Idaho Fish and Game which dealt with a whitefish die-off blamed on the parasite said that there was not that much known as to how exactly the parasite spreads through the environment.
Fish suck in spores of the disease through their gills. The parasite then travels to the kidneys causing them to fail eventually.Governor Steve Bullock said: "A threat to the health of Montana's fish populations is a threat to Montana's entire outdoor economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it sustains." Montana's outdoor economy supports 64,000 jobs and produces a revenue of around $6 billion.
Like this writer's work please donate:
Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.