Largemouth Bass Virus Investigation and Management

In a concerted effort initiated in 2006, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), alongside the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, embarked on a mission to scrutinize the presence of Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) within the state's bass population. This surveillance activity has yielded positive LMBV findings in three distinct Rhode Island locations: Olney Pond within Lincoln Woods State Park in 2011, Echo Lake in Pascoag during 2014, and Watchaug Pond in Charlestown by 2016.

Understanding LMBV and Its Impact on Aquatic Life

LMBV primarily endangers largemouth bass, with fatalities recorded among this species. However, its presence isn't confined to bass alone; it has been identified in other fish such as bluegills and pumpkinseeds. The virus manifests through symptoms including but not limited to hyper-buoyancy, abnormal spiraling movements, and a general state of lethargy, all indicators of swim bladder damage. Notably, these signs may remain latent until the onset of stress-inducing environmental conditions like elevated water temperatures, diminished oxygen levels, droughts, or the presence of secondary infections. Such stressors can trigger the activation of LMBV, occasionally resulting in mass fish die-offs.

From a health perspective, fish biologists have clarified that LMBV poses no threat to human health, ensuring the safety of consuming or handling infected fish, provided they are properly cooked.

Strategies for LMBV Prevention

To curb the spread of LMBV, RIDEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife has laid out a series of preventive guidelines. Anglers are advised against the transfer of fish across different water bodies and are encouraged to meticulously clean and dry their boats, motors, and fishing equipment after use. The release of bait fish into lakes or ponds is strongly discouraged. Moreover, there's an emphasis on reducing stress for bass during catch-and-release practices, particularly in warmer climates. Additionally, the reporting of fish kills to the Department at (401) 222-3070 is imperative for monitoring and managing LMBV outbreaks effectively.

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