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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2015/fhi-quarterly-report-1-october-to-31-december-2015
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The fish farm inspection programme for compliance with aquatic animal health regulations and for disease surveillance, was completed for 2015 during this quarter. The early autumn programme is dominated by surveillance on farms holding species of fish susceptible to spring viraemia of carp (SVC). However as autumn progressed the programme emphasis changed towards surveillance on salmonid farms to reflect the nature of the listed diseases affecting these species, which are likely to express at low water temperatures.
The seasonal visit programme results for the final quarter of the calendar year reveal that the FHI undertook 62 compliance visits, achieving at total of 106% of the 2015 scheduled visits. The results vary from the number of scheduled visits forecast at the beginning of the programme due to newly authorised sites becoming active during the course of the year. 91% of the total scheduled coldwater trade importer inspections and 93% of Regulation 23 isolation site visits were completed this year. Routine disease inspections on fish farms for Koi herpesvirus (KHV) totalled 123% completed and SVC 95% completed for 2015. The increased number of visits to sites holding species susceptible to KHV disease is related to ensuring compliance with statutory disease controls.
The shellfish inspection and compliance programme on shellfish farms was successfully completed, with the target for visits exceeded. The sector continued to grow both in terms of the number of authorised sites. In 2015 new authorisations again exceeded businesses that ceased trading. Reports of disease issues in shellfish aquaculture remain at a high level however and have resulted in increased Inspectorate activity in this sector.
Under The Lobsters (Control of Deposit) Order 1981 the FHI licence and inspect premises that hold non-native lobsters - the American lobster Homarus americanus - and that are located within one mile of tidal waters. This legislation was originally introduced to control the bacterial disease gaffkaemia caused by infection with Aerococcus viridans var homari. Gaffkaemia is a considerably more virulent infection in the European lobster Homarus gammarus where it results in high levels of mortality. Whilst gaffkaemia is no longer listed by OIE as a reportable disease, and is not controlled under European Union aquatic animal health legislation, national controls have protected stocks of European lobster by reducing the risk of the transfer of disease from imported animals. The value of this legislation has been recognised by the GB Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) in preventing the release of American lobsters into the wild. As a result of recent deliberate releases, the FHI has contacted licence holders to reinforce the conditions under which American lobsters must be held. We have also refreshed efforts with importers of live shellfish to ensure that all premises that require a licence are identified and subject to inspection.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
Diagnostic testing was completed on samples obtained from 15 populations of sentinel fish introduced into sites under confirmed designation (CD) as the final phase of the surveillance programme for KHV disease in infected waters. Following the completion of diagnostic testing the CD’s, which were applied in 2011, were removed from 5 fisheries. In addition confirmed designations were removed from two sites which were subject to an extended programme due to the failure to obtain adequate sample sizes in earlier years. KHV was detected by single round PCR in the fourth of the series of samples from one site in Kent. As a result of this detection the surveillance period on the fishery has been extended.
As a result of the conclusions of an epidemiological study, a new policy on KHV disease retesting on infected waters was adopted in 2015 which will be the final year of disease surveillance using sentinel fish. Future surveillance on KHV disease infected sites will comprise four years of inspections, with a minimum of two inspections per year.
Fish farms in England and Wales which meet exacting biosecurity standards can apply for additional disease testing in order to achieve recognised compartment status for listed and nationally controlled diseases.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
In November a report was received from a shellfish farmer located in the River Teign, Devon of significant mortalities in his stocks of juvenile Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas). The farmer reported 100% mortality in batches of seed oysters introduced in July 2015. Diagnostic testing confirmed the presence of oyster herpesvirus OsHV-1 µvar. Whilst water temperatures were lower than those generally associated with this disease, the shellfish farmer confirmed that he infrequently inspected the stock, and given the levels of mortality, it is probable that the infection had been present for some months. Epidemiological investigation failed to identify the source of infection, and monitoring of the site will continue in order to identify any recurrence of disease. A Confirmed Designation due to the presence of oyster herpesvirus OsHV-1 µvar was placed on the River Teign.
Large scale die-offs of wild cockles in estuaries in South Wales have been reported for many years. A number of detailed studies have been completed but no obvious cause has been identified. A further large scale mortality was reported in the Dwyryd estuary, near Porthmadog, Gwynedd. Samples were obtained for histological screening, however no pathogens were identified. The histology indicated that the cockles may have been affected by adverse environmental conditions contributing to the mortality event.
Investigations are continuing into the unexplained mortalities of Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) on a shellfish farm in the River Dart, Devon. The levels of mortality are high, and at a level that oyster farming may not be commercially viable. The levels of mortality vary at different locations in the estuary. Diagnostic testing has identified the presence of MSX organism Haplosporidium nelson but not at levels that would explain the mortalities. A review meeting is planned involving the FHI, researchers, diagnosticians and stakeholders in order to consider future approaches to this mortality event.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||91|
|Routine disease inspections||79|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||8|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||7|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised aquaculture production businesses||54|
|Routine disease inspections||39|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||6|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||1|
4. Investigations and enforcement
A further module has been added to the FHI intelligence database to facilitate prosecutions and to bring the FHI intelligence gathering and assessment in line with the National Intelligence Model (NIM). The database is continuing to be populated with intelligence from a variety of sources, and covering a diverse range of activities such as alleged illegal imports, unauthorised sites operating as fish farms, illegal movements of fish, and illegal sales of fish. A number of these issues have been subject to investigation. Members of staff received training on acting upon intelligence received. Training in the tasking and coordination process is planned as the next stage in embedding the model.
A Fish Health Inspector attended the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) annual conference where he, along with colleagues from the Environment Agency, contributed to a workshop on enforcement issues around the European eel. It is likely that joint enforcement activities will result from this collaboration. In addition the Inspector attended the Heathrow Airport Working Group meeting, a multi-agency group that seeks to improve Government controls at the airport through the One Government at the Border initiative. Re-engagement with UK Border Force officials will result in improved joint working and in the provision of training on aquatic animal health controls at ports and airports.
A Fish Health Inspector, acting in support of the investigation into the illegal release of non-native species, American lobsters Homarus americanus and Dungeness crabs Metacarcinus magister into the sea off the south coast of England, accompanied an MMO official to Billingsgate Market to interview seafood dealers about the supply and release of these species. The MMO are continuing to develop a prosecution file for this case.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||9|
5. Advice and representation
In November and December, members of the FHI participated in Exercise Alpheus, an exercise to test our disease contingency plans which extended over several days and was based upon a hypothetical outbreak of the exotic parasite Gyrodactylus salaris in an English river system. The exercise, which was overseen by the UK Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, tested the operational response to the disease outbreak, diagnostic capacity, communications, and presented a number of policy challenges. Over 60 participants were involved including representatives from Defra, the devolved administrations, the Environment Agency, and various stakeholder groups. The exercise was considered a great success and will be followed up with a lessons learned review.
Over recent months’ extensive discussions have taken place between Defra officials, the European Commission and representatives of the Republic of South Korea over the aquatic animal health conditions required to facilitate imports of live olive flounder Paralichthys olivaceus into the European Union. In order to assist the Korean Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries in establishing an appropriate regulatory framework to facilitate trade, the European Commission funded an assistance and guidance programme under the partnership initiative of the Technical Assistance Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX). In November a senior Fish Health Inspector, Alasdair Scott, accompanied the head of the EU Reference Laboratory for fish diseases, and successfully completed a seven-day expert mission to the Republic of Korea to provide guidance and to assess the potential for the establishment of disease free compartments in their aquaculture sector.
The FHI Operations Manager, Angela Trent, has taken on the role of UK co-ordinator to the European Commission’s OIE coordination working group section aquatic animal health and attended her first meeting in December 2015.
The Defra annual Science Meeting was held at the Cefas Weymouth laboratory on 17 to 18 November 2015, where the Head of the FHI presented an update on aquatic animal health in England and Wales in 2015 and a demonstration was given of the new electronic data collection system for inspection visits that uses iPad technology.
In November the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) published their report on the fact finding mission to the UK on aquaculture. This report will be followed up with a workshop held in spring 2016 on barriers to the further development of aquaculture in the European Union.
Two Fish Health Inspectors attended the Carp Society trade show at Sandown in December where information on fish diseases, biosecurity and non-native species controls was circulated to angling interests.
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 – October to December
6.2 Paper Survey – August to December
|Professionalism & Behaviours||4.85 average out of 5 across 10 categories|
6.3 Email Survey – October to December
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||689|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||10,514|
|Movement document applications||87|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||237 (100% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||241 (83% achieved)|
|Overall compliance rate within target||96%|
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 116. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||2|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 42. The breakdown is as follows:
9. Next quarter
- Full utilisation of the Starfish database development across the FHI.
- Commencement of electronic data collection using tablet technology and incorporation into Inspectorate field programmes.
- Ongoing development of the new live fish movement application using mobile devices to industry.
- Embedding FHI intelligence management procedures to comply with National Intelligence Model standards.