Welcome to the Idaho Fish Health Center
All photos USFWS
The Idaho Fish Health Center is co-located with Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and is located in the southern Panhandle of Idaho between the historic communities of Ahsahka and Orofino. Originally built in 1969 as part of the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, the center provides fish health services within Idaho, eastern Washington, and eastern Oregon. Federally-funded national fish hatcheries within Idaho receive health diagnostic and inspection services from the center. In addition, the center works in cooperation with other federal, state, private and Tribal agencies to survey, sample, and analyze hatchery and wild fish populations.
What is a Fish Health Center?
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fish Health Centers (FHC) are resource centers that provide service, expertise and information supporting the Service's mission to promote and protect aquatic animal health. Their work contributes to health, survival, restoration, and enhancement of fish and other aquatic species. It also supports hatchery operations to provide quality fish. Each center works with fish research centers, universities, and private companies to serve fish growers in producing healthy fish for the future.
What Do Fish Health Centers Do?
Comprehensive Fish Health
Activities of fish health centers include:
* frequent checks on the general health of fish within hatcheries
* screen for pathogens (viral, bacterial, parasites) dangerous to fish
* monitor selected wild stocks of fish
* recommend treatments for specific diseases
* give advice on how to prevent or minimize impacts of disease on fish populations
Fish health center personnel must apply knowledge of several scientific disciplines including fish biology, microbiology, epidemiology, toxicology, pathology, physiology, histology, and genetics.Â They must understand the conditions, individual requirements, interactions of wild and cultured fish, and how those factors influence disease and overall aquatic animal health.
Why are Fish Health Centers Necessary? Understanding Disease
Fish, like all animals, are subject to a variety of diseases which can lead to death. They may suffer from environmental, nutritional, or infectious diseases caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic pathogens. These factors are capable of causing death when a fish's resistance is lowered.Â Because diseases may be a problem among fish raised in hatcheries, it is important for culturists to understand the nature of diseases.
In natural conditions, fish are exposed to pathogens and will sometimes display signs of disease. Hatchery fish are exposed to the same pathogens found in natural systems. In addition, hatchery fish are exposed to other stressful conditions such as fluctuating water temperatures, changes in water quality, overcrowding, handling, and transport. Stress can lower a fish's immune system, which can help pathogens to attack and cause disease. Fish health center personnel work with hatchery personnel to help reduce stressful conditions which can minimize or prevent disease outbreaks. Fish health center staff may also recommend treatments such as antibiotics and vaccines.
Watching for warning signs of disease
In spite of the best care and preventive efforts, disease may occur. It is vital to detect disease as soon as possible. One way to detect a disease at its onset is by observing the fish behavior. Abnormal behavior could be not eating, flashing, gathering at the water inflow, sluggishness and gasping at the surface. Physical signs to look for could be blisters, swollen bellies, "pop-eye", bloody areas, discolored areas, heavy mucous and growths on the body.
Host-Pathogen Environment Relationship
Fish Diseases are the result of interaction between a pathogen, a fish (host) and a poor environment. Even if the pathogen is present, some disease outbreaks will not occur unless the environment becomes too degraded for the fish.
It is easier to visualize these relationships as three circles that represent the host, the pathogen, and the environment. These circles are continually interacting in various ways. The host must always be present to see a disease occurring, but in reality the environment is always present also. If the environment is very poor, the host can suffer from environmental diseases. If the environment is slightly poor and a pathogen is present, infectious diseases may occur.
The mission of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serivce is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people