Whirling Disease Foundation and TU Merge

Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Whirling Disease Foundation (WDF) announced plans to formally merge the two organizations in an effort to combat the growing

ARLINGTON, VA.- --Trout Unlimited (TU) and the Whirling Disease Foundation (WDF) announced plans to formally merge the two organizations in an effort to combat the growing problem of aquatic nuisance species and their effect on the nation's trout and salmon.

The Whirling Disease Foundation was established in 1995 to raise the funds needed for solutions to the damage caused by whirling disease to wild trout populations. Since that time the WDF has raised more than $4 million in federal, state and private funds for whirling disease research. It has also helped organize and coordinate global research efforts on the disease.

Whirling disease is a parasitic infection caused by the microscopic parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis. The disease is named for the characteristic swimming behavior that results as the parasite multiplies in the head and spinal cartilage of the infected fish. Trout Unlimited has been working with the WDF since its inception to address the threat posed by whirling disease and other invasive aquatic species. TU's initial reports on whirling disease in 1996 and 1999 created a framework for federal efforts to combat whirling disease.

"One of the greatest threats facing North America's coldwater fisheries comes from alien invaders, from whirling disease and New Zealand mud snails to Asian carp and the algae called didymo," said Jack Williams, TU's Senior Scientist. "We are thrilled to combine the expertise and experience of the WDF with TU's scientific, policy and advocacy strengths."

"Whirling disease continues to be a major threat to our wild trout fisheries," noted Dave Kumlien, Executive Director of the WDF. "We now have whirling disease in 23 states, and just this year it was discovered in Maryland. Merging our efforts with Trout Unlimited gives us the ability to address the new threats more effectively and to expand the effort into the broader issue of aquatic nuisance species."

Under the merger, the WDF's board of directors and distinguished five-member science advisory panel, which includes one Nobel laureate and four members of the National Academy of Science, will become advisors to TU, helping TU's efforts in fighting whirling disease and aquatic nuisance species. Kumlien and the WDF's scientific advisor, Dr. Jerri Bartholomew of Oregon State University, will become part of TU's scientific and policy team, working with Dr. Jack Williams and Steve Moyer, TU's Vice President for Government Affairs.

Moyer noted some of the first priorities under the new partnership.

"First and foremost, we want to resurrect the federal funding of whirling disease research, which has been eliminated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Second, we need new funds to address the broader issue of aquatic invasive species. Third, we need to teach anglers across the country what they can do to stop the spread of whirling disease and other parasites."