It is clear that, as an integral part of the river itself, water quality will inevitably determine the success or failure of the hatchery operations. Therefore, maintenance of the existing hatchery ‘design’ cannot succeed in raising IPNV-free trout unless & until the viral ‘load’ in the river has dropped enough to be lower than that which could be expected to infect newly-hatched fry.
What is less clear, but of even greater import, is that even if the hatchery could be completely re-built to utilize a closed, well-water supply, the river course below it could not ‘handle’ the huge increase in flow volumes which would result (that is, regular river flows plus hatchery effluents.) Any new or substantially-new construction would not only be subject to difficult siting issues, but would be subject to ‘modern’ permitting/water quality issues, endless red-tape, and enormous expense at a time the State is in dire economic straits.
THE NYSDEC’S ROLE
Following an outbreak of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia in lakes Ontario and Erie, NYSDEC promulgated a set of “emergency” regulations (see part 188 of the NYSDEC regulations) requiring an annual fish health inspection certification. Without such certification, no fish could be sold, transported, or stocked in State waters. The obvious intent was to minimize, to the extent possible, the introduction of serious fish diseases into watersheds, especially those currently free of such diseases.
Seven different possible epidemic diseases of fish were listed in the regulations. By lumping all of these diseases together, the authors of the regulation made no provision for their differing epidemiologies.
Curiously, three “exceptions” were written into the law: A) the marine and coastal district, B) border waters between NY & neighboring States, and C) “subject to a permit which may be issued by the Department at its discretion”. However, despite what any ordinary reader of this language would understand its meaning to be, NYSDEC has continued to insist that provision B was intended only to allow fishing tournaments to take place on border waters, and provision C was intended only to permit the stocking of walleye fry at very early stages of development. This begs the question: if the intent was specific, why was the regulatory language not equally specific? This putative lack of authority meant that the Area One DEC. (L.I.) fisheries had no ability to treat the CRSPP situation with “discretion”.
Following the IPNV discovery @ Connetquot, NYSDEC undertook electrofishing surveys in the Carmans River and in the Nissequogue River. Neither stream tested positive for IPNV. This was a relief to those concerned with the native brook trout of the Carmans, brook trout being the salmonids most vulnerable to IPN. The Nissequogue had for decades received stocked trout raised in the Connetquot hatchery. When it was tested in 2008, no Connetquot trout had been planted there for some months, so the fish tested were likely from other sources. Nevertheless, the negative testing suggested that IPNV had not become endemic to the Nissequogue.
Electrofishing surveys in the Connetquot, however, revealed a very high prevalence of IPNV-infected fish, including the native brook trout in the upper reaches of the river. Some eels were tested and found negative for IPN, suggesting that the original source of infection was not of marine origin. This was further reinforced when the serotyping of the yearling trout harvested in 2008 revealed the viral type to be that which ‘commonly’ affects freshwater hatcheries.
All testing done by NYSDEC to-date has been on fish. No invertebrates, especially amphipods, have been sampled or tested, presumably for lack of funding. This is unfortunate, because a large invertebrate host reservoir of IPNV may exist in the Connetquot.
Although NYSDEC does not operate the CRSPP hatchery, it is the permitting authority. Consequently, NYSDEC insisted that any renewal of a permit would be conditional upon OPR-HP obtaining the services of a NYSDEC-approved hatchery engineering & management consultant to make recommendations for the mitigation of the IPNV problem.
During the closure of the hatchery, NYSDEC offered to supply OPR-HP with some stockable trout, but only to the extent compatible with a “Catch Rate Oriented Trout Stocking” survey to be conducted in summer, 2009. This survey is designed to assess what DEC considers a suitable & sustainable trout stream population, consistent with a catch rate averaging one trout every two hours. Any trout in addition to this would have to be provided by