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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2015/fhi-quarterly-report-1-july-to-30-september-2015
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The fin fish farm compliance programme is approaching completion with the remaining salmonid farm inspections scheduled for the autumn period. The KHV disease programme was completed whilst water temperatures were favourable for the expression of clinical disease. The inspection target was exceeded due to an increased number of unscheduled visits to ensure compliance with statutory requirements. A great effort has been made by field inspector teams to ensure that all of the programmes remain on target for completion by the end of the calendar year.
The monitoring programme for the exotic parasite Gyrodactylus salaris requires the sampling of wild salmonid populations on river catchments with self-sustaining populations of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in England and Wales. This is a 5 year rolling programme covering all of the major catchments and requires close collaboration with Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales field teams undertaking surveys of juvenile salmonid populations on rivers. For the first time in several years the 2015 G.salaris sampling programme was completed to target and ahead of deadline. No evidence was found for the presence of the parasite.
In September, the European Commission (EC) published the commission implementing decision (EU) 2015/1554 laying down rules for the application of Directive 2006/88/EC as regards requirements for surveillance and diagnostic methods. This document has been several years in development by EC working groups and sets out recommended surveillance programmes and diagnostic methodologies for listed diseases of aquatic animals. As a result of the publication of this decision a number of amendments will be required to Fish Health Inspectorate procedures, which will be amended to meet the deadline of 1 April 2016 for adoption of the requirements.
Authorisation of aquaculture production businesses has continued at a high level. In the quarter, we inspected 10 fin fish farming sites subject to authorisation, and 4 fish importers and 4 importers of live aquatic animals for human consumption. During this period only one APB was de-authorised.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
As water temperatures rose during the late spring and summer, the number of mortality events reported to the FHI increased. The FHI investigated 24 mortality events involving common carp and other coarse fish species and a total of 15 Initial Designations (ID) were placed on fisheries on suspicion of KHV disease. Of these, 11 fisheries proved to be positive for KHV disease and were subsequently subject to Confirmed Designation (CD). In addition, the 95% KHV disease variant was identified in two of the other mortality events. This represents a significant reduction in KHV disease outbreaks as compared with the 23 positive sites in 2014. This may reflect the lower summer water temperatures experienced in 2015 and is comparable with the number of outbreaks in recent years (15 in 2013, 6 in 2012 and 6 in 2011).
In July, the FHI confirmed KHV disease in a population of common carp in south Wales. The disease investigation followed notification of mortalities in the fish stocks by the fishery owner. This is the first case of KHV disease confirmed in Wales since the disease was made notifiable in 2007. England has had 104 confirmed outbreaks on fisheries in the same period.
Following changes to the policy on the use of sentinel fish for the demonstration of freedom from KHV disease in designated waters, the 2015 introductions were the final sentinel fish programme. Fifteen introductions of common carp were made to eight waters subject to Confirmed Designations. Each site had two introductions of 150 carp at an interval of 4 to 5 weeks (with the exception of one site that required only one introduction). Samples from the sentinel fish populations have been submitted for diagnostic testing and the results will be available by the end of 2015. Future surveillance on infected waters will be through a visual inspection programme.
During summer, reports were received from stakeholders in south-west England of adult Atlantic salmon in rivers exhibiting signs of what was reported as ulcerative dermal necrosis (UDN). This condition of wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout is of unknown aetiology, and is characterised by the development of small grey erosions of the skin often around the head of the fish. The condition was prevalent in the 1960s but has rarely been reported since. Investigations on a number of rivers in the south-west have not identified any fish exhibiting classical signs of UDN. However, on some rivers in particular the River Dart, adult salmon and trout were observed with extensive lesions across the head and body as a result infection with the oomycete fungus Saprolegnia parasitica. Such infections are common in wild salmonids in freshwater, appear to be cyclical in nature and are often exacerbated by environmental events such as low water flows in rivers. Observations of lesions on affected fish are often attributed by stakeholders as UDN, and reported by the press and other agencies as such. However to date there is no clear evidence of the occurrence of UDN in rivers in the south-west. Further efforts will be made by the FHI during 2016 to obtain specimens of fish exhibiting classical signs of UDN in order to establish the causative agent of this condition.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
Following a report of mortalities in wild Pacific oysters on the north Kent coast at Birchington-on-Sea and Reculver at the beginning of August, investigations confirmed the presence of oyster herpesvirus microvariant (OsHV-1 µvar). In 2010 Whitstable Bay in Kent was the first area in GB to experience an outbreak of OsHV-1 µvar, and remains subject to surveillance and disease controls. Since this initial outbreak there has been no evidence for the spread of OsHV-1 µvar from the index site until this year. The mortalities at Reculver were some 10 miles, and those at Birchington-on-Sea were around 15 miles from Whitstable Bay. This is the first instance of spread of the virus to adjacent oyster populations along a coastline. As a result, the original Whitstable Bay Confirmed Designation was extended to include the whole of the north Kent coast up to the North Foreland.
In September, Natural England reported large-scale mortalities in wild Pacific oysters around the western undercliff near Ramsgate, Kent. Upon inspection and sampling, mortality levels were estimated at 80-90%. Diagnostic tests confirmed that the mortalities were due to OsHV-1 µvar. The north Kent coast Confirmed Designation was further extended to include the new infected area (CD.15.2015). This latest outbreak is in a population of oysters that are not considered to be contiguous, with infected stocks in north Kent and the source of infection is unknown.
The shellfish industry in England and Wales was informed of the disease outbreak and the amendments to the Confirmed Designation through a news release and a letter to all shellfish farming businesses.
In September the FHI Senior Inspector Mike Gubbins attended the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) mollusc committee meeting to present an update on the oyster herpesvirus OsHV-1 µvar confirmed designation extension in Kent and the implications for oyster hatcheries in the UK.
The Burry Inlet, in South Wales, has seen a decline in commercially important cockle population over a number of years. Previous studies have established a definitive causal factor in the population decline. Following a recent mortality event Natural Resources Wales submitted a sample of cockles for diagnostic screening. Histopathological examination revealed a wide range of pathogens and parasites. However associated pathologies were insufficient to account for the mortalities. Furthermore no pathology associated with contaminant exposure was observed. NRW has asked that a comparison is made between the pathogens and parasites observed in the recent sample with those recorded in an earlier study conducted some years ago
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||17|
|Routine disease inspections||114|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||20|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||129|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised aquaculture production businesses||57|
|Routine disease inspections||28|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||21|
4. Investigations and enforcement
The FHI has continued to support the Marine Management Organisation and Sussex police in the investigation into the release of non-native crustaceans in the sea off Brighton Sussex. The two species released, the American lobster Homarus americanus and Dungeness crab Metacarcinus magister are believed to have been purchased from shellfish dealers at Billingsgate Fish Market. Animals submitted to the FHI from fishermen in the Sussex area have been tested for the presence of Aerococcus viridans var homari the causative agent of gaffkaemia with no positive results to date.
The intelligence database is becoming further embedded within the FHI through training. Fish Health Inspectors are continuing to submit intelligence reports for inclusion into the database, and a further module is scheduled for introduction in December which will be suitable for use for prosecution purposes.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||10|
5. Advice and representation
In August the Fish Health Inspectorate was awarded the Cabinet Office’s Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Standard. The Government developed this exacting standard for delivery bodies that provide an efficient, effective, excellent, equitable and empowering service to the public, and represents an independent validation of achievement. The FHI is the first organisation in Defra’s agencies to achieve the CSE Standard.
The FHI Aquatic Trade and Technical Advice (ATTA) team attended a meeting with the Environment Agency’s fish movement team at the National Fisheries Laboratory, Brampton in order to consolidate processes involved in fisheries registration which is the responsibility of the FHI, and fish movement permitting which is undertaken by the EA.
The annual British Trout Association conference was held in Skipton, Yorkshire in September and attended by the UK leading trout producers. Fish Health Inspectors were invited to present on the use and subsequent prohibition of malachite green in fish farming, and on research into skin diseases of trout.
The FHI’s Operations Manager Angela Trent delivered the annual fish health review at the Coarse Fish Conference held at Sparsholt College in September where she also covered the procedures adopted by the FHI in disease investigations.
A senior inspector attended the biennial conference of the European Association of Fish Pathologists (EAFP) at Las Palmas de Canaria where he chaired a session on diseases of wild and ornamental fish and delivered a presentation on the threat of illegal fish movements on national fish health status.
Extensive exchanges have taken place between Defra, the European Commission and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea about the aquatic animal health conditions that are required to be fulfilled to facilitate the import of olive flounder into the European Union. In order to assist trade, the European Commission has proposed a mission to Korea on the export of olive flounder to the EU under the auspices of TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange). Senior Inspector Alasdair Scott has been nominated as a technical expert to accompany this mission which is scheduled to take place towards the end of the calendar year.
6. Customer Surveys
The FHI want to provide all of our customers with excellent service. To check this, regular feedback is requested by using 3 different surveys:
- 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.
- A paper survey 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.
- 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 any of 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 Customer Thermometer – July to September
6.2 Email Survey - July to September
|Bad||3% (investigated and full advice provided to responders)|
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||714|
|Email enquiries||Not available due to an IT problem|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||4,456|
|Movement document applications||115 (100% achieved)|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||201 (100% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||149 (95% achieved)|
|Overall compliance rate within target||98.75%|
A full breakdown of the FHI’s performance under the service charter is available in Finfish News.
The total number of aquatic trade consignments imported into England and Wales from other EU countries in the last quarter was 139. The breakdown is as follows:
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 89. The breakdown is as follows:
|United States of America||3|
9. Next quarter
Completion of the 2015 compliance and disease surveillance programmes on fish and shellfish farms in England and Wales.
Field testing of on-farm electronic data collection using tablet technology to commence.
Results of the sentinel fish programme on KHV disease infected fisheries will become available and Confirmed Designations on infected sites under this programme will be reviewed.