Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia: Mid-Oct '08 Workshop Follow-up
Great Lakes Sustainable Recreational and Commercial Fisheries - News

Workshop on VHS for Marine Extension and Fish Health Professionals

What: New York and Rhode Island Sea Grant Programs sponsored an informative workshop on VHS, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, for Marine Extension and Fish Health Professionals

When: Friday, October 17, 2008

Where: URI Narragansett Bay Campus (the Graduate School of Oceanography Campus), Hazard Rooms in the Coastal Institute, Narragansett, RI.

For more information on this workshop, please contact Dave Beutel, Rhode Island Sea Grant,  University of Rhode Island,  401-874-7152 email:

VHS is a serious viral disease that has resulted in significant mortalities of wild marine, aquacultured marine and freshwater fish since its first discovery in 1938.  It has been a serious fisheries problem in Europe, the Pacific Northwest, Northeastern Atlantic and Baltic Sea.  The pathogenic virus, VHSV, has been detected in the Northeastern Atlantic and Baltic Sea in Atlantic cod, haddock, halibut, turbot, Atlantic herring, sprat, plaice, flounder; whiting, blue whiting, and European eel elvers.  In the Pacific, viral isolates have been found in such species Pacific herring, Pacific sardines (pilchard), Pacific smelt (euchalon and surf smelt), and anchovy. Large-scale, population level mortalities from VHS have been reported among Pacific Northwest stocks of Pacific herring, Pacific hake, walleye pollack and Pacific sardines. The vast majority of studies have, however have focused on fish using viral strains endemic to European waters.

To date there have been at least four distinct genetic variants or genotypes of the virus identified around the world: Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV.  Genotype IV has been split into to major groups:  Genotype IVa  (marine isolates) of Genotype IV and Genotype IVb (freshwater Great Lakes Basin isolates).

What is not known in eastern North America is how Genotype IVa will affect stocks of haddock, cod, and Atlantic herring.  It may only be a matter of time before losses of the magnitude of those observed in the marine environment of the Pacific Northwest are seen along the Atlantic coast of North America.   An additional concern that has been given little attention is the potential that the freshwater Genotype IVb may move to the marine environment and cause devastating mortalities as are occurring in the Great Lakes Basin.  If this were to happen, the commercial industry could face severe economic hardships

Because of the potential for VHSV to infect important commercial species in the Northwest Atlantic, as well as possibly affecting important forage species such as Atlantic herring it is imperative to proactively put this issue on the radar screens of fisheries professionals, enabling them to respond if or when the disease emerges. 

Because VHS issue is of concern to both in Marine and Great Lakes extension and research, New York and Rhode Island Sea Grant have organized a one day information meeting on VHS to summarize current state of knowledge: distribution, viral dynamics, infection routes, population impacts, disease pathology, and diagnostic tools.

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