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GLIN==> Press release: NY Sea Grant meeting helps small business deal with VHS regulations

Title: Press release: NY Sea Grant meeting helps small business deal with VHS regulations
PRESS RELEASE: February 16, 2007            
Contact:  David B. MacNeill, NY Sea Grant, 315-312-3042

NY Sea Grant Meeting Addresses VHS Impacts on Small Business in Upstate NY -- Meeting First to Address Protecting Both Fisheries and Coastal Businesses from VHS Impacts

Oswego, NY – A New York Sea Grant meeting held January 30th in Watertown has prompted action to address the economic impacts of new state and federal regulations designed to prevent the spread of VHS – viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a viral disease in fish. While the disease has been known to exist in fish for 60 years and is not considered a threat to human health, the VHS regulations are negatively impacting Thousand Island Fishery of Alexandria Bay, NY, a small business that processes bullheads and other fish for sale to restaurants, non-profit organizations and individuals.

Steps to Help Thousand Island Fishery Underway
As an outcome of the meeting, Thousand Island Fishery co-owner Marcia Hayden is now working with economic development specialists with the Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College.

Small Business Development Center Director Eric Constance says, “New York Sea Grant did a great job of getting everyone at the meeting to understand the urgency of the need of 1000 Islands Fishery. We are now moving forward with some of the ideas brainstormed at the meeting to help this small business survive not only for its own sake but for the non-profit and profit-making sectors of our economy that rely on 1000 Islands Fishery to help them generate income.”

Constance says Hayden and the business consultants are looking at options for micro-enterprise loans and ways to strengthen the perch-processing arm of the business.

Meeting Presents Real World Business Threatened by New VHS Regulations
The NY Sea Grant-convened meeting may be the first of its kind to discuss the threat of VHS and how to balance fisheries protection with coastal economy interests in the context of a real-world business. To address how the regulations are affecting 1000 Islands Fishery, the largest supplier of fresh-processed bullheads in New York State, David B. MacNeill, a fisheries specialist with New York Sea Grant, Oswego, NY, organized the January rapid response meeting that brought together Thousand Island Fishery co-owner Marcia Hayden with representatives of the scientific research community, state and federal legislators, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and small business representatives.

Hayden and MacNeill have also since met with representatives of New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer to discuss the federal regulations that prohibit the live transport of 37 different species of fish, including bullheads, from Canada into the U.S., and apply restrictions to the interstate transport of live bullheads.

MacNeill says, “Our recreational and commercial fisheries are a vital part of New York State’s economy. VHS poses a potentially serious threat to our fisheries and to the businesses dependent on the fisheries. Such threats require agencies, such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA, to respond quickly to enact stringent regulations to help protect wild fish populations. Unfortunately as a result, there have been unanticipated and unintentional impacts on small businesses such as Thousand Islands Fishery. This issue requires discussions by all interested parties and research into the ecologic and socioeconomic impacts of the virus.”

Thousand Island Fishery, licensed by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, is the largest supplier of fresh-processed bullheads in New York State. Hayden says, “We stand to lose two-thirds of our business. Before the meeting we were looking at the prospect of not doing any bullhead business in 2007. Now we are working to have the Federal Order amended as quickly as possible and to find short-term measures to keep us in business.”

Thousand Island Fishery processes and sells bullheads to 22 restaurants, seven nonprofit organization including volunteer fire departments that hold fish frys as fund-raisers, six grocery stores and private individuals. Hayden says bullheads represent $25,000 in annual income to her business. MacNeill estimates the economic spillover into the Upstate New York is between $140,000 and $170,000 annually.

Hayden has imported about 25,000 lbs. of live bullheads each year from a commercial netter in Canada because the Canadian fishery produces quality fish and a legally established commercial trap net fishery for bullhead exists only on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River. Live bullhead can be obtained from commercial hook-and-line fisherman on the New York side of the River, but they cannot catch enough to meet the demand for restaurant-quality fish.

Bullheads have skin rather than scales and so must be live-processed immediately upon arrival at the processing facility. 1000 Islands Fishery generally delivers the fresh-processed fish to restaurants within 24-36 hours.

Legislators Respond to Call for Help
Federal and state legislators are taking an active role in addressing the issue of VHS regulations. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has enlisted the support of her fellow federal legislators and is encouraging the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to act quickly to review how the federal-level regulations on VHS are impacting economic interests in Northern New York. APHIS regulations currently allow the live transport of salmon and trout across international boundaries. Officials are looking at options to revise the legislation to address the bullhead species.

“There is no question that we must protect New York’s lakes and streams, but the recent fish import ban goes too far in some cases and is hurting New York businesses. I urge the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to act as quickly as possible to allow our North Country businesses to resume importing fish for uses that do not pose a threat to the health of New York’s fisheries, ” said Senator Clinton, who joined with Congressman John M. McHugh (R-NY) recently in writing to urge APHIS to fix the rule.

“While safeguarding the species in America's lakes and rivers is important, this is a prime example of federal regulations having unintended consequences," said Congressman John M. McHugh. "In this case, the rule is putting the livelihoods of small business owners at risk and it is imperative that federal officials expedite the process and issue an amended ruling on this matter."

New York State Senator James W. Wright comments, “The recent meeting with government representatives and associated agencies is a testament to the region's devotion to fisheries-related issues. There are economic interests uniquely tied to our waterfront, and I was pleased to be part of the effort to address the effects VHS can have upon them and impacted small businesses."

New York State Assemblyman Darrel J. Aubertine remarks, “The short-term and long-term planning that New York Sea Grant provides from both a scientific and coastal economy perspective is just what this issue needs to benefit our small businesses and the nonprofit organizations that depend upon them.”

New York State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava says, “The combined resources approach taken by New York Sea Grant moved the issue quickly from identifying the problem to problem solving in a way that will help us reach the best economic and environmental solution.”

NY Sea Grant to Fund Research to Help Detect VHS
New York Sea Grant anticipates funding Dr. Paul Bowser of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Bowser; James W. Casey and Rodman G. Getchell – all of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and John M. Farrell of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY, to study the freshwater adaptation and early invasion of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus into the Great Lakes basin. The project will develop a new test to help detect the presence of VHS in water or tissue samples.

For more information, contact New York Sea Grant, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, 315-342-3042. For more information on the federal regulations regarding VHS, go online to www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/vhs/vhs.shtml.   # # #