November 17, 2007
Salt Lake City, Utah — Late last week, fish pathologists
with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources discovered DNA
evidence of Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes
whirling disease, in rainbow trout at the Springville State Fish
Whirling disease affects trout and salmon, resulting in
deformations and neurological damage that cause the fish to
None of the four-inch trout were stocked in Utah waters. Per DWR
protocols, the population of 60,000 fish will be destroyed, and
the hatchery will be shut down until a new water supply is
secured. The infected fish, weighing approximately 6,000 pounds,
are a small fraction of the one million pounds of fish raised
annually in state hatcheries.
Surplus rainbow trout at the other hatcheries will ensure that
plenty of fish are available to stock Utah waters in the coming
The discovery was made during routine disease testing of the young
rainbows. While disappointed, DWR officials were not completely
surprised. The Springville hatchery also experienced an outbreak
in 2005 when whirling disease was discovered in the main water
DWR Aquatics Section Chief, Walt Donaldson, notes that the agency
is committed to stocking healthy fish, "Good science requires that
we not stock infected fish. We discovered the problem, notified
the Fish Health Policy Board and are committed to sustaining
The agency is taking another critical step as well. It is
currently digging a well to secure a clean water source from an
underground aquifer. Officials hope this measure will prevent
future occurrences of the disease at the Springville site when it
The public can also help prevent the spread of whirling disease
across Utah. Officials urge anglers to take the following steps
when fishing in Utah waters:
* Remove mud from all equipment, including boats, trailers,
waders, boots, float tubes and fins before leaving a fishing area.
Thoroughly dry equipment in the sun if possible before reuse. If
you are traveling directly to other waters, clean your equipment
with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach or use another set
* Do not use felt-soled waders; they provide an ideal hiding place
for the spores that cause whirling disease.
* Do not transport live fish between bodies of water.
* Do not dispose of fish heads, skeletons or entrails in any body
of water. Fish parts should be disposed of in the garbage, by deep
burying or by total burning.