A Talk on the Wild Side.
Dr. Susan Gutenberger, BKD expert from the Pacific Region Fish Health Program, provides instructions on conducting fish necropsy. Photo by USFWS
National fish hatcheries have responded to fisheries conservation challenges since 1871. Building on this conservation legacy, the Service maintains a cadre of experts in fish health who support national, state and tribal hatcheries through cutting edge science and technology that helps improve conservation techniques and methods.
In 2016, tribal fish hatcheries in the Southwest detected bacterial kidney disease (BKD), a chronic and often lethal disease that has plagued fisheries since the 1930s. This was the first outbreak of BKD on tribal hatcheries, and created complications and financial concerns for the tribes in their restoration and recovery programs of native and recreationally important species on tribal lands.
The Service recognized an opportunity to offer tribes technical expertise and help them address outbreaks like this, and volunteered to partner on a pilot effort that would bring subject-matter experts to the tribes and provide hands-on training. The Service developed a two-day workshop, hosted by the Southwest Tribal Fisheries Commission and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, at the Mescalero Tribal Fish Hatchery in Otero and Lincoln counties in New Mexico. The goal of this training was to help tribal partners identify and manage the BKD outbreak as well as any other potential emerging fish health issues.
Interest in this pilot project was high, with 22 participants representing the Navajo Nation, Pueblos of Sandia, Laguna and Zuni, and the Mescalero Apache, White Mountain Apache, Jicarilla Apache and Southern Ute tribes. All participants were able to gain a better understanding of BKD and its effect on fisheries through classroom lectures followed by necropsies in a laboratory.
The good news is that the BKD outbreak is under control. Better news is that the tribal hatcheries will be better able to handle a future outbreak. Perhaps the best is the stronger bond between the Service and tribal conservation partners in the Southwest.