Thousands of fish die in Yellowstone River
Archiver's Preface: Freshwater ecosystems are warming globally from the direct effects of climate change on air temperature and water resources. For cold water fish such as the mountain whitefish discussed in this article, warmer waters are linked to more severe infections and infestations.
Increasing water temperature is already a major stressor for fish in the Salmonidae family (the mountain whitefish is one of the most widely distributed salmonid fish of western North America). Changes in temperature create new risks for biological systems including the potential for emerging infectious diseases among fish populations due to new fish and pathogen interactions. Higher water temperatures can affect fish pathogens directly by altering their biological processes or indirectly by influencing the distribution and abundance of the fish they affect.
An unprecedented fish kill has closed nearly 100 river miles of the Yellowstone River in Montana, as officials try to contain a parasite that is killing thousands of whitefish.
"We recognize that this decision will have a significant impact on many people. However, we must act to protect this public resource for present and future generations," said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener.
The agency has documented nearly 4,000 dead whitefish since the parasite took hold, but they fear the total impact could be in the tens of thousands.
Test results show the area has been hit with a microscopic parasite, Tetracalsula bryosalmonae, that causes a Proliferative Kidney Disease. This combined with near-record low water flows, summer high temperatures and recreation activities has worsened the situation.
"A threat to the health of Montana's fish populations is a threat to Montana's entire outdoor economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it sustains," said Governor Steve Bullock