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Successful mitigation of viral disease based on a delayed exposure rearing strategy at a large-scale steelhead trout conservation hatchery

September 1, 2015

In 2009, the largest steelhead trout conservation hatchery in the state of Idaho, Dworshak National Fish Hatchery (NFH), lost over 50% of the juvenile steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) population being reared for release. The causative agent of this high mortality was the viral pathogen infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV). This was neither the first nor the worst epidemic of IHNV to occur at the hatchery, but it was the worst in over a decade. Genetic analysis of IHNV isolates taken from juveniles suffering epidemic IHN disease in 2009 revealed that the virus was of the M group of IHNV viruses, known to have high virulence for trout. The water supply for steelhead trout rearing at Dworshak NFH is untreated water taken directly from the Clearwater River. Further genetic analysis of IHNV isolates from adults spawned in 2009 indicated that adult steelhead trout in the river (in the hatchery water supply) were the most probable transmission source for the epidemic IHN disease in the juvenile fish. Previously, Dworshak NFH had been able to gain access to reservoir water from behind the Dworshak Dam for nursery egg incubation and the earliest stage of fry rearing, which nearly eliminated incidence of IHN disease in that stage of rearing. Additionally, the nearby Clearwater State Fish Hatchery (SFH), which operates entirely with reservoir water, has never had a case of IHN disease in juvenile steelhead trout. Therefore, staff at Dworshak NFH sought and obtained access to a limited supply of reservoir water for the first few months of outdoor rearing of juvenile steelhead trout, beginning in 2010. This strategy delayed the exposure of juvenile steelhead trout to river water for several months. The effects of this program change were: drastic reduction in IHN disease in juvenile steelhead trout; interruption in the transmission of highly virulent M group IHNV from adult steelhead trout; no interruption in the transmission of low virulent U group IHNV from adult Chinook salmon; and a shift of IHNV types in adult fish spawned at Dworshak NFH in subsequent years from M to U group viruses. While juvenile steelhead trout may still be infected via exposure to IHNV in river water, the disruption of virulent M group IHNV has been successful in dramatically reducing IHN disease in steelhead trout every year since 2010.

Publication Year 2015
Title Successful mitigation of viral disease based on a delayed exposure rearing strategy at a large-scale steelhead trout conservation hatchery
DOI 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2015.07.014
Authors R. Breyta, Corie Samson, Marilyn Blair, Allison Black, Gael Kurath
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Aquaculture
Index ID 70156700
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center