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Southeast Region Receives Grants to Research Largemouth Bass Virus


July 3, 2001

Tom MacKenzie , USFWS, (office 404 679-7291)

Four recipients - - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Warm Springs Fisheries Health Center, The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, the Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at Mississippi State University, and the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Auburn University - - are working cooperatively to conduct largemouth bass virus research. Their efforts will be supported by $415,390 in grants from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

"Largemouth bass virus is a major concern in the Southeast because it occurs in ten southeastern states," said H. Dale Hall, the Service's Southeast Deputy Regional Director. "These four groups are all researching different aspects of the problem to provide early detection and promote the health and survival rate of largemouth bass."

"We urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the highest funding priority to Largemouth Bass Virus, and it did," said Bruce Shupp, National Conservation Director of Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S. S.). "We're really happy about this." B.A.S.S. has organized two annual research meetings in 2000 and 2001 of fish disease experts to discuss the virus and encourage solutions.

According to Hall, the research money reverted from states that were unable to spend their entire Sport Fish Restoration allocation during federal fiscal year 2000 that began in October 1999 and ended on September 30, 2000. The Service collects Sport Fish Restoration funds from a voluntary excise tax paid by manufacturers of fishing and boating equipment and then distributes the money to the states based on the number of fishing licenses sold in each state. Nationwide, anglers contribute almost $300 million annually to the Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

The $415,390 in funds will be distributed as follows:

Largemouth bass virus only infects cold-blooded animals and, although it also occurs in other bass and sunfish species, it is only lethal to largemouth bass. All of the known fish kills have occurred during warm weather, and stress caused by water pollution or frequent handling by anglers can aggravate the virus. The virus has caused fish kills in several southeastern lakes including: Santee Cooper in South Carolina (1995); Lake Eufaula in Alabama and Georgia (1998); Greenwood Reservoir in South Carolina (1998); Sardis Reservoir in Mississippi (1998); Toledo Bend in Louisiana and Texas (1999); Table Rock Lake in Arkansas and Missouri; Lake Ferguson and Tunica Cutoff in Mississippi (1999) and Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana (1999); Monticello Lake in Arkansas (2000); and False Lake in Louisiana (2000).

Nationwide, 27 organizations will receive allocations from a total of $1,785,199 in the reverted FY 2000 Sport Fish Restoration Account. A seven-member panel was involved in prioritizing sportfish projects for funding. They included representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey; the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Service's Division of Federal Aid in Washington D.C., and the Service's Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Division in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

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