The Rats Nest

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Very Worthy Cause

So Ed Mitchell contacted me a week or two ago and made me aware of some really interesting stuff in reference to Striped Bass Research.  Read on:

Release 2/ 12/ 2011                                       Contact Ed Mitchell  e.mitchell6@
                                                                                                         Tel. 860-529-0685
 Stripers Forever
Subject: Mycobacteriosis Research Initiative     

 Stripers Forever, the conservation organization advocating for responsible stewardship of wild striped bass along the Atlantic Coast, has announced an outreach initiative to raise money for research on mycobacteriosis, a deadly fish disease that is increasingly prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay where the bulk of stripers that migrate up and down the Atlantic Coast are spawned.
 “Myco” is believed to be nearly always fatal to infected striped bass and can create serious health problems for anglers and anyone else handling those fish before they are cooked. Fishery scientists estimate that more than 75 percent of all striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay system are infected with myco. There is at present no known cure for this insidious disease which represents a major threat to the well-being of stripers and thus the future of recreational and commercial striped bass fishing from Maine to North Carolina.
 The fund raising appeal being administered by Stripers Forever is called The Mycobacteriosis Research Initiative (MRI).  Donations to MRI will benefit Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), the leading authority on myco. Checks should be made payable to “VIMS Foundation” (write “For Myco Research” on the memo line) and mailed to VIMS Foundation, P.O. Box 1693, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8779.
 A link to a secure site for credit card donations appears along with more information about myco under featured links on the left side of the Stripers Forever home page  (  All contributions are tax deductible and will go into a dedicated myco research account.
 Visitors to the site can sign up for membership in Stripers Forever at no charge.

Mycobacteriosis of Striped Bass in Chesapeake Bay: A Lethal Bacterial Disease
 Mycobacteriosis is an emerging infectious disease that affects well over 75% of the resident striped bass in Chesapeake Bay.  Signs of the disease include unsightly skin ulcers  and pale gray nodular lesions in the internal organs, mainly the spleen.  It is believed that once infected, striped bass ultimately die.  Annual striped bass tag-recapture studies in Maryland and Virginia waters indicate that since the late 1990’s and concurrent with the first reports of this disease, natural mortality (e.g. mortality other than that attributable to fishing) has gone up significantly in the Bay.  This has generated concern among scientists, fishermen, and resource managers that the disease is having a significant adverse impact on the stock.  One of our recent studies has provided the first evidence that disease-associated mortality is in fact occurring in Chesapeake Bay striped bass. However, we do not yet know the extent of this mortality, nor do we understand the ecology of the mycobacteria (e.g. where in the environment they are found), the routes of transmission for the infection, or the environmental stressors (e.g. temperature, hypoxia etc.) that modulate disease expression.   We believe this infectious disease is a grave concern and that additional research is desperately needed to find answers to the many remaining scientific questions.  
To conduct the necessary research we have assembled a multi-disciplinary team of scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and at Old Dominion University.  We are using field-based modeling approaches  to investigate the disease impacts (mortality), as well as laboratory disease challenges in the  new state-of-the-art VIMS Seawater Research Laboratory  to address routes of disease transmission and the role of environmental factors in disease expression. Our long-term goals are:  1) to develop a better understanding of disease dynamics, 2) to clarify potential stock impacts, and most importantly, 3) to develop predictive models of the disease and more effective management strategies aimed at better protecting this vital fishery resource.
Our research directly addresses a primary Stripers Forever goal which is to “further define and overcome the impact of mycobacteriosis on stripers and humans as part of the fisheries management process”. Contributions from Stripers Forever would directly support mycobacteriosis research in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfgang Vogelbein at VIMS ( It could be used to fully or partially support a graduate student (e.g. tuition, assistantship, research supplies, boat time etc) or it might be used to fund a specific study that addresses a particular research question (e.g. a laboratory challenge study investigating the impacts of temperature on disease transmission/progression). It might also be used to help us build the infrastructure necessary to better support this type of research at VIMS (e.g., construction of aquatic disease challenge systems, fish holding systems etc).

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