DNR biologists continue monitoring for bass virus
August 8, 2012 ·
A disease known as largemouth bass virus is affecting fish in at least four West Virginia lakes, and researchers are learning more about the illness.
Last year, Division of Natural Resources biologists discovered the presence of the virus in four lakes: Stonewall Jackson, Sutton, East Lynn and North Bend.
DNR researchers are now looking again to see where the virus is present.
DNR tests show the virus is in places along the Ohio River.
Fisheries biologist Chris O’Bara says studies are ongoing.
"As with humans, when you are in poor physiological condition, you’re more adept to having some kind of disease outbreak," he said.
Largemouth bass virus affects bass species, but also other species of fish like sunfish.
It was first discovered in the southern part in the United States in the late 1990s.
There have been fish kills associated with the virus, but none yet in West Virginia.
O’Bara says warm water temperatures, during the summer months, can increase the virus’ impact on aquatic life.
"If the warm temperatures would continue over a longer period of time, or if we were to have other conditions: low dissolved oxygen, that would be an additive stress on the fish, we may see outbreaks of diseases," he said.
"I would say it is a moderate concern; we don’t want to move fish from those areas that would potentially cause the virus to move with them."
While no fish fatalities in West Virginia streams have been attributed to the virus, O’Bara says that doesn’t mean the threat isn’t there, particularly in light of drought conditions this summer.
"With drought conditions that come into effect, we see crowding the fish, we see poor water quality attributed to lack of flow, so it would have a decrease of dissolved conditions. So drought conditions, extreme drought conditions especially would have more of an influence promoting largemouth bass virus," O'Bara said.
O’Bara says fish fatalities aren’t the only way largemouth bass virus can affect the bass population.
"Probably our biggest concern is not primarily related to fish kills but to growth, and just the general well-being of the fish," he said.
The DNR is waiting to hear results from several other surveys throughout the state.