In order to control a disease that has affected a section of the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Warren County, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is euthanizing a small portion of its trout population and taking other steps to protect the overall integrity of the facility.
Furunculosis, a fatal disease affecting cold water species of fish such as trout, was discovered recently in the lowermost portion of the concrete raceway system used to raise trout.
“We are taking all precautions to contain this disease,” Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda said. “This will have minimal impacts on the availability of fish to be distributed throughout the state as part of our fall stocking season.
“We have thoroughly tested other fish in the facility and have ample supplies of two-year-old trout to distribute for the fall trout stocking season. Unfortunately, however, we will not be able to stock any of the super-sized three-year-old trout, and no brown trout will be distributed.”
The disease, caused by a bacterium known as Aeromonas salmonicida,was discovered earlier this month in the hatchery’s E line, along the lower end of the concrete raceway system used to raise trout for stocking of New Jersey’s waterways.
The E1 pool holds about 2,500 brown trout, which are all being euthanized. As a precaution, the hatchery is also euthanizing all trout in the pools/raceway system downstream of the affected pool.
In all, about 25,000 fish will be euthanized, a small portion of the more than 600,000 trout the hatchery raises every year. The fish are being euthanized with an anesthetic drug known as tricaine mesylate or carbon dioxide.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife believes the disease was transferred to the hatchery by ospreys and herons. These birds, feeding on infected fish in the wild, may have spread the bacteria through contact when feeding on fish in the affected pool at the hatchery.
The disease is not transmissible to people but it is never advisable to eat any diseased-looking fish or animal. Signs of furunculosis include darkening of the skin of affected fish as well as large boils and lesions.
The hatchery carries sufficient surplus of trout and anticipates only minimal impacts to its successful fall, winter and spring stocking programs. Approximately 20,000 two-year old brook, brown and rainbow trout will still be distributed in the upcoming fall program, as well as 5,000 rainbows this winter.
These fish reside in a separate area of the hatchery and have tested negative for the disease. The hatchery also has 570,000 unaffected trout to be distributed in the spring of 2014.
However, larger three-year-old trout resided in the impacted section of the hatchery and must be euthanized. They will not be available for stocking.
To avoid future problems, the affected area of the hatchery will be drained and disinfected, Equipment will also be disinfected.
The hatchery already uses an elaborate system to deter birds, including air cannon, electrified fencing, and cables strung out over the pools. But the birds have figured out a way to enter the pool area by swooping in horizontally, thus evading the cables. The hatchery is now investigating using a full covering system.
Located in Oxford, the Pequest Trout Hatchery utilizes state-of-the-art techniques and procedures to produce some 300,000 pounds of trout each year for stocking in nearly 200 ponds, streams and lakes throughout New Jersey. Artesian wells in the Pequest Valley provide a constant flow of cold water necessary for the rearing of trout.