Pathogens Associated with Trout Populations in Shenandoah National Park and the Relationships to Fish Stocking Practices

Restrictive fish stocking policies in National Parks were developed as early as 1936 in order to preserve native fish assemblages and historic genetic diversity. Despite recent efforts to understand the effects of non-native or exotic fish introductions, park managers have limited information regarding the effects of these introductions on native fish communities. Shenandoah National Park was established in 1936 and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) restoration within selected streams in the park began in 1937 in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). An analysis of tissue samples from brook, brown (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from 29 streams within the park from 1998-2002 revealed the presence of Renibacterium salmoninarum, Yersinia ruckeri, and infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNv). In order to investigate the relationships of the occurrence of fish pathogens with stocking histories we classified the streams into three categories: 1) streams with no record of stocking, 2) streams that are known to have been stocked historically, and 3) streams that were historically stocked within the park and continue to be stocked downstream of the park boundary. The occurrences of pathogens were summarized relative to this stocking history. Renibacterium salmoninarum, the causative agent of bacterial kidney disease, was the most prevalent pathogen found, occurring in all three species and stream stocking categories, and appears to be endemic to the park. Two other pathogens, Yersinia ruckeri and infectious pancreatic necrosis virus were also described from brook trout populations within the park. IPNv was only found in brook trout populations in streams with prior stocking histories. Yersinia ruckeri was only found in brook trout in steams that have never been stocked and like R. salmoninarum, is likely endemic.

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