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No Evidence Of Damage From Yellowstone River Oil Spill Says FWP

American paddlefish
Timothy Knepp - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
American paddlefish

One week into Montana’s paddlefish season on the the lower Yellowstone river, biologists say they’re not seeing any negative impacts from an oil spill on that stretch of river in January.

Montana allows anglers to catch paddlefish downstream from Glendive every May 15th. The season lasts until 500 fish are harvested. Some catch and release fishing is also allowed.

Mike Backes with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says that several hundred people often converge at fishing sites to try to snag paddlefish, which commonly reach 50 pounds or more in size.

Backes says biologists have seen no evidence of harm from January’s oil spill.

"No, we have not seen or been able to document any impacts, long term anyway, to the river, or the fisheries in it."

The agency estimates that about 30,000 gallons of crude spilled into the Yellowstone when the Bridger pipeline that runs underneath it upstream of Glendive ruptured January 17th. Backes says it’s hard to say if there was any acute damage to fish or the river immediately after the spill because most of the river was covered in ice.

Federal wildlife managers are still investigating impacts to endangered pallid sturgeon in the river. A state fish consumption advisory for the river was lifted in April.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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