Over 114,000 trout were euthanized at New Jersey’s Pequest Trout Hatchery last month after officials discovered the presence of furunculosis, a fatal bacterial disease, among the hatchery’s resident fish. According to the Express-Times, officials from the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife valued the fish at about $500,000.
“We continue to thoroughly test and treat fish in all sections of the hatchery and are taking all precautions necessary to contain this disease,” Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda told NJ.com. “Weighing all the factors with this most recent outbreak, it is in the best interest of the hatchery now and to safeguard the 2015 stocking program that the 114,000 brook trout that tested positive for furunculosis are euthanized.’’
Furunculosis affects cold-water fish species and is not harmful to humans or other wildlife. It is not the first time that the Pequest hatchery—which raises brook, brown, and rainbow trout—has dealt with the disease. Last year, officials killed 25,000 fish at the hatchery when the disease was discovered for the first time in over 30 years.
Although the trout kill is hardly good news, some conservationists have spoken up in support of the euthanization because furunculosis can spread very quickly.
“What they’re doing is prudent,” Ross Kushner, head of the Pequannock River Coalition, told The Record. “They’re being careful and that is what they should be when handling something like this.”
The affected fish were killed by releasing carbon dioxide into the water. An additional $85,000 will be spent on antibiotics to treat the remaining fish at the hatchery. Hatchery officials suspect that the disease was introduced to the facility’s pools by ospreys feeding off diseased wild trout. Birds of prey are a constant concern at state hatcheries, which use a mix of air cannons, string, and electric fencing to deter winged predators.
The Pequest hatchery usually stocks about 600,00 trout but only 250,000 are expected to be stocked this year. Wildlife officials are currently considering breeding brown and brook trout to be more resistant to the disease. Rainbow trout are already highly resistant to furunculosis.
New Jersey’s trout season begins this Saturday.