Yellowstone River was closed by authorities after thousands of fish had been found dead. All recreational activities were stopped to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Yellowstone River was closed for an area of 183 miles, from the northern boundary of the Yellowstone National Park up to the city of Laurel.
The locals are worried about the effects the close may have on the outdoor industry, as many rafting companies and fishing outfitters operate in the area. The outdoor activities are creating more than 64,000 jobs and are worth $6 billion per year.
The Fish, Wildlife, and Parks officials explained that the shutdown was needed in order to prevent the further actions of a parasite that causes kidney disease.
Wading, floating, fishing and boating are all forbidden until further notice. The officials explained that recreational activities are stressing the fish and amplify the effects of the parasite on their health.
Hundreds of trout had been seen dead near Livingston. The locals agree that the closing will be catastrophic for their businesses, but the parasite issue must be dealt with to protect their resources for the future.
Over one single week, the wildlife officials documented almost 2,000 dead fish. The total number of estimated victims can reach tens of thousands. While it started with mountain whitefish, the disease spread to rainbow and cutthroat trout.
The Fish Health Center in Bozeman collected tissue samples and tests them to gather more information on the parasite and its impact on the fish populations from the river.
The cause of death is the Proliferative Kidney Disease, which is known to occur in various places from Europe, Canada, and the US. In Montana, only two cases had been documented over the last two decades. However, more recent outbreaks appeared in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
The authorities will monitor the situation and will open the river when the stream conditions improve, and the mortality rates drop.
Two decontamination stations had been installed in the area, to reduce the spread of the parasite. Every person that used the Yellowstone River for recreational purposes is asked to use the wash stations. The disease does not put humans at risk.
The public is requested to clean all equipment before moving it from one body of water to another.
The Yellowstone River was closed within just a few days of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and its planned celebration.
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