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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2015/fhi-quarterly-report-1-april-to-30-june-2015
1. Finfish and shellfish health
Finfish compliance inspections are 67% completed for the calendar year to the end of June; as was the case at this stage in 2014. The spring surveillance programme on fish farms holding species susceptible to spring viraemia of carp virus ended as water temperatures increased, with 83% completed. The remainder of this programme will be completed during autumn. In addition the importer and isolation compliance programmes are 60% completed, and on target to be finished by the end of the year.
In the last decade a major cause of economic loss in the trout farming sector has been the emergence of a number of skin conditions. These include red mark syndrome and puffy skin. These conditions do not always result in mortalities but cause rejection at processing. In April the FHI investigated what appears to be another skin disease emerging in brown trout. The condition presented as raised white lesions in the dorsal area, which progresses to large deep ulcers. Most ponds holding brown trout were affected. The fish farmer resorted to culling affected stock to control the spread of the condition. Interestingly co-habiting rainbow trout were unaffected.
A similar condition was also observed in brown trout at another unconnected fish farm. The FHI arranged a workshop at Cefas, where a number of possible causes were considered. The FHI is working with the fish farmers to find the cause of the condition. Initial suspicion that high levels of sunlight may cause or exacerbate the condition and the use of screening an affected pond is being trialled. This will establish if reduced levels of sunlight would resolve or mitigate the condition.
Historically adult wild migratory salmonids in the freshwater stage of the life cycle are known to be subject to fungal disease, often as a result of infection with the oomycete Saprolegnia parasitica. However infection in migrating salmon smolts has rarely been observed. Following reports of skin lesions in fish caught in salmon smolt traps on the River Tamar in Devon, the FHI undertook an investigation. The lesions were found to be caused by infection with Saprolegnia parasitica. The consequences of such infections for salmon populations are unknown. However there remains a possibility that the skin lesions will resolve once the smolts enter the marine environment. Similar reports of skin lesions, although in fewer fish, were received from salmon smolt traps in the River Dee, North Wales.
Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the biological control of sea lice on Atlantic salmon farms through the use of cleaner fish. In the past various wild caught native wrasse species - such as the ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and the goldsinny wrasse (Ctenolabrus rupestris) - were used for this purpose. However more recently a number of aquaculture businesses in England and Wales have started the culture of another native marine species - the lumpsucker (Cycopterus lumpus). These are considered easier to rear in high numbers, and are faster growing than wrasse. Wild caught broodstock have proven to be highly susceptible to parasitic infestation. The FHI has acted as a focal point in liaising with the aquaculture business, Cefas researchers, and Scottish salmon producers in developing a project to investigate the disease problems of lumpsuckers in cultivation.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
As water temperatures increased, the number of reports of mortalities in the coarse fishery sector - particularly carp fisheries - rose. To date no listed diseases are associated with the mortality events. However carp edema-like virus (CEV-like virus) was confirmed in a population of common carp in a fishery in the north of England. No losses were reported, the carp stocks appeared to be very lethargic, and additional samples of common bream and roach proved to be negative for the virus. The number of confirmations of CEV-like virus in carp fishery in England remains low and suggests that the virus is not widespread in our carp populations.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
In June the operator of a shellfish farm located in the River Roach estuary reported increased mortalities in his stocks of juvenile Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas). The River Roach estuary is a part of the buffer zone for oyster herpesvirus following the outbreak of this disease in the adjacent River Crouch in 2014. In the past the River Roach shellfish farms have experienced losses through bacterial infection with Vibrio spp. and through infection with the ‘wild’ (non-microvar) type of oyster herpesvirus. The River Roach estuary was subject to an initial designation whilst further investigations took place. Diagnostic tests confirmed oyster herpesvirus microvariant OsHV-1 µvar at two separate sites in the River Roach estuary. An epidemiological investigation proved inconclusive in identifying the source of the infection. A confirmed designation (CD06/2015) was made covering the River Roach, River Crouch, River Blackwater, and the River Colne, Essex, replacing two earlier confirmed designations of the River Blackwater and River Crouch (CD04/2012, CD16/2014). All shellfish operators holding Pacific oysters and relevant stakeholder groups were informed of the new confirmed designation.
In spring 2013 statutory controls were placed on three shellfish farms in north Norfolk, after reports of unusual Pacific oyster mortalities. Initial investigations indicated the possibility of infection with the exotic parasite Mikrocytos mackini. However following phylogenetic analysis it was concluded that the parasite represented a new and previously undescribed species which was named Mikrocytos mimicus. Statutory controls were retained on the shellfish farms whilst the long term implications of the infection were assessed. Statutory controls were removed following four negative tests over a two year period, with no further indication of the presence of infection.
Following the discovery of American lobsters (Homarus americanus) and Dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister) - in Brighton on the Sussex coast – the FHI obtained samples for disease screening. These are non-native species to the UK and are considered to have been illegally released from imported stocks. They have the potential to introduce new diseases to our native crustacean populations. All tests proved to be negative for white spot syndrome virus. The American lobsters were also screened and proved negative for the presence of Aerococcus viridans var homini - the causative agent of gaffkaemia - a serious disease of both European and American lobsters in storage, and in stocks under stress such as high density populations.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||170|
|Routine disease inspections||145|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||33|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||22|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised aquaculture production businesses||5|
|Routine disease inspections||2|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||8|
4. Investigations and enforcement
Following the investigation into the outbreak of oyster herpesvirus microvariant OsHV-1 µvar in the River Crouch, Essex in August 2014, prosecution papers were prepared against a farmer for breaching the conditions of the confirmed designation on the River Blackwater estuary. The operator moved shellfish without permission and the case was heard on 5 May 2015 at Colchester Magistrates Court. The defendant pleaded guilty and was fined £3,500 for the offence with £5,755.60 costs. This was the first prosecution taken for a breach of the conditions of a designation, and sets a precedent for similar prosecutions in the future.
An inspector has provided support to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in relation to the ongoing investigations into the release of non-native crustaceans into the sea off Brighton. He met with MMO officers and Sussex Police to progress plans and arranged the investigation at Billingsgate Fish Market into the source of the crustaceans.
The FHI have implemented an intelligence logging system. This allows for collation of intelligence provided to the FHI in a secure and confidential way. Two members have received training in intelligence handling, intelligence reports have already been logged on the system and the database is now ready to be used to start targeting enforcement and spot check inspections. This system is compatible with other regulatory agencies and will facilitate the exchange of intelligence.
Our enforcement officer attended the launch of Operation Leviathan, at the West Mercia Police headquarters in Worcester. This is a multi-agency, cross Police force initiative to counteract crime based around fish and fisheries. It is supported by the Angling Trust, twelve police authorities, the Environment Agency (EA), and other interested parties.
Our enforcement officer represented the FHI at a meeting of the National Inshore Marine Enforcement Group, which brings regulators together that enforce legislation in the marine environment. This group is attended by representatives of regional Inshore Fishery Conservation Authorities, the MMO and the EA. The group provides a useful forum for ensuring effective joint agency action, and consistency of approach to enforcement and intelligence sharing.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||9|
5. Advice and representation
The FHI launched a Facebook page in May, which now has 500 followers. It is a highly effective, low cost means to disseminate information to stakeholders. A recently produced information leaflet on koi herpesvirus (KHV) disease and biosecurity on fisheries was seen by over 3,000 individuals, many of whom would not have been accessible by other means.
The publications Finfish News and Shellfish News are now published as a part of the Cefas Marine Science blog, with new articles being announced on the Cefas Twitter page. Readers can sign up to email alerts on the blog.
The FHI Aquatic Trade and Technical Advice team participated in a contingency exercise organised by the Food Standards Agency. This modelled the accidental release of fuel oil into a major water course. The team provided valuable advice on appropriate actions to mitigate the effects of the pollutant on a fish farm.
Fish Health Inspectors attended the British Koi Keepers Society (BKKS) annual conference and delivered a presentation on effective biosecurity.
In June the FHI hosted a visit from two scientists from the Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales, Australia. They were exploring the possibility of using KHV disease as a biological control for common carp in the wild. Common carp are a harmful invasive non-native species in Australia responsible for damage to sensitive habitats and for the decline in native fish populations. In addition to a number of presentations on the FHI’s experience of KHV disease, site visits were arranged to a number of infected fisheries.
A major shellfish farm in Scotland has been seeking sources of Pacific oyster from French hatcheries. This is due to UK produced juveniles being considered too small to thrive in the environmental conditions around the location of the shellfish farm. The FHI provided advice to Marine Scotland Science on health certification requirements for the movement of Pacific oysters for relaying, and confirmed that it is our understanding that there are currently no hatcheries in France that meet the health requirements for moving oysters to oyster herpesvirus free areas.
6. Customer Surveys
The FHI want to provide all of our customers with excellent service. To check this, regular feedback is gathered using 3 different surveys:
- Email inspection survey - Customer Thermometer is a monthly customer feedback gathering online survey. The FHI use this to target customers visited by our inspectors during the preceding month. Feedback from customers is on a 1 to 4 scale (1: Bad / 4: Excellent) and allow operators to provide additional comments.
- Paper survey - this is sent to operators who don’t respond to the electronic survey or who don’t have email addresses. These surveys are undertaken in July and December.
- Email advice survey - The FHI’s ATTA team use an email survey method to get feedback on advice. This is added as an email signature and has four buttons: ranging from “Excellent” to “Bad”. Customers can also provide comments.
Negative feedback and complaints from these surveys is followed up on receipt, following the FHI’s Service Charter. Survey results form part of the key performance indicators and are presented at FHI and Cefas monthly management team meetings.
6.1 Email inspection survey results - April to June 2015
6.2 Paper survey results - February to June 2015
|Behaviours (1-5 score - 5 being Excellent)||4.8|
|Professionalism (1-5 score - 5 being Excellent)||4.9|
6.3 Email advice survey results - January to June 2015
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of the FHI’s performance against its targets in the service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||748|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||10,991|
|Movement document applications||100 (100% achieved)|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||227 (100% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||291 (93% achieved)|
|Overall compliance rate within target||98%|
A full breakdown of the FHI’s performance under the service charter is available in Issue 15 of Finfish News.
The total number of aquatic trade consignments imported into England and Wales from other EU countries in the last quarter was 109. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||1|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 139. The breakdown is as follows:
9. Next quarter
Completion of the KHV Sentinel Programme.