Fish Health Laboratory

Location

The Fish Health Laboratory, at 81 Hatchery Road in Augusta, is centrally located to MDIF&W's eight hatcheries and the most popular fishing areas of the State. It easily found off of the Burns Road, adjacent to the Engineering Division building in a rural part of Augusta at the entrance road for the Governor Hill Hatchery. Although the laboratory is open to the public, arrangements to visit should be made in advance by phone at (207) 287-2813.

Facility Description

The facility is equipped as a biosafety level one laboratory for work primarily associated with freshwater pathogens of salmonids. It is staffed with a fish health professional and a microbiologist that is an American Fisheries Society Certified Fish Health Inspector. The lab is equipped with a tissue culture lab for detecting viruses with select fish cell lines, a microbiological lab for detection and identification of bacterial pathogens, and microscopy equipment including compound, stereoscope, and confocal microscopes for bacterial and parasite identification.

Fish and equipment in health lab

Philosophy

A major focus of the Fish Health Laboratory is to assist our hatchery staff and regional fisheries biologists in taking pro-active rather than reactive management actions in safeguarding the fish health status of our waters as they have done for decades. Prevention is much easier and less costly than disease management. Prevention is achieved through avoiding the introduction of new diseases, preventing the spread of diseases that are already in the State, and by augmenting the ability of fish to naturally fight off disease. Stress is a known immune suppressor and when disease is seen, it is usually associated with a stressful condition, whether it be environmental, nutritional, or physical. Fish rearing conditions within the hatchery system and the carrying capacity of our natural waters are carefully managed to foster a low stress environment that naturally promotes robust fish with immune systems that are resistant to disease.

Purpose

The Fish Health Laboratory is tasked with the health management of the State's freshwater fish culture facilities and protecting wild fish populations of the State via the screening of fish movements into and within the State. Areas of responsibility include:

  • Diagnostic testing and diagnosis of fish diseases
  • Disease surveillance, screening, and certification of State fish hatchery populations
  • Disease screening of wild/feral broodstock populations used for spawning activities
  • Disease management and prevention
    • Recommends and provides guidance for therapy and other actions when necessary
    • Confirms disease certificates and evaluates the risk of fish imports and fish movements
    • Reviews permit applications for fish importation associated with aquaculture
  • Hatchery Support
    • Evaluates indicators of fish welfare and provides feedback to managers
    • Promotes fish husbandry practices focused on disease prevention
    • Trouble shoots problems with fish health and fish quality
  • Conducts and Facilitates Applied Research for improved fish health
    • Feed and feed ingredient research
    • Water quality
    • Spawning technologies
    • Husbandry practices
  • Education of hatchery staff, biologists, and the public on various issues of fish health

Caught or found a diseased fish?

Sometimes fish get sick and when they do, their appearance can be disturbing. Most of the time, the condition is not new to our regional fisheries biologists. They are very familiar with the various bodies of water, species of fish within, and known diseases that occur on occasion. Contact the regional fisheries biologist for your area. If you have a camera, please take some photos of your diseased catch as they can be very helpful to us in making identification. For more information including pictures, see Fish Health Issues (PDF).

Fish Health Laboratory
81 Hatchery Road, Augusta Maine 04330
(207) 287-2813

David R. Russell, Fish Pathologist
Email: David.Russell@maine.gov

Zubaidah Sargent, Microbiologist
Email: zubaidah.sargent@maine.gov