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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2016/fhi-quarterly-report-1-january-to-31-march-2016
1. Finfish and shellfish health
All compliance and surveillance visits for finfish have been programmed for 2016 and this quarter the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) has completed 33% of compliance visits scheduled for fin fish farms, 15% of scheduled coldwater trade importer inspections and 7% of inspections on sites that maintain isolation facilities for imported coldwater fish.
As far as disease surveillance inspections on fish farms are concerned, monitoring for VHS, IHN and Gyrodactylus salaris is 48% completed, with a total of 86 visits undertaken so far for 2016. As this is a temperature dependent programme the remainder of the inspections will be completed during early spring and then during the autumn programme.
Compliance and surveillance inspections of shellfish farms for 2016 are yet to commence as the three diseases of concern, Bonamia ostrea, Marteilia refringens and Oyster herpesvirus microvariant OsHV-1 µvar are temperature dependent and seasonal in nature. Surveillance for these diseases will start later in the year.
The UK is required to submit summary data on aquaculture production every year to Eurostat - the statistical office of the European Union. The FHI has in the past collected production data during farm compliance visits. However, this caused problems in submitting the data to meet submission deadlines. This year the FHI has asked farmers to provide production data using a postal survey. To date the response by fish and shellfish farmers has been excellent with around 80% of returns completed and returned.
During the past year the FHI, along with colleagues in the Cefas Applied Technology Group, have developed an electronic means to collect data during inspections on fish and shellfish farms using tablet technology. Data is input into the tablet, validated and electronically submitted to the Starfish database at the end of the inspection. The FHI iPAD was launched in March and replaced paper based data collection. In addition to improving the speed and accuracy of data collection, it is estimated that it will remove the need to use some 21,000 pieces of paper.
Mike Gubbins, the lead on shellfish health in the FHI, attended the annual European Union National Reference Laboratories meeting for molluscan diseases. This was held at the Ifremer Laboratory - La Tremblade, France - where he presented the shellfish diseases epidemiology report for the UK.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
There were fewer reports of disease outbreaks on farms in the early months of 2016 as compared with previous years. Also low water temperatures may have contributed to the fact that there were only a few reports of disease outbreaks on managed fisheries. The FHI investigated only 6 mortality events, with no evidence found for the presence of listed diseases.
The emergence of skin diseases in trout production has had a detrimental impact on the economic viability of the sector, primarily through increased rejections at processing. The FHI supported a study by Cefas Epidemiologists on the factors influencing the occurrence of puffy skin on fish farms in England and Wales through the completion of a questionnaire during farm inspections. The results of the study will be published on completion.
Sea lice infestations continue to be a major problem in Atlantic salmon production. Constraints on chemical treatments have resulted in a renewed interest in the use of cleaner fish to manage sea lice populations. A number of farms are now producing lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus) from wild caught broodstock and from imported ova for use on salmon farms. Following an outbreak of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) in lumpsucker in a fish farm in Iceland, the FHI has negotiated bilateral agreements with the Icelandic and Norwegian authorities. Therefore now lumpsucker ova consignments require health attestations for this disease. This temporary measure is in place in advance of changes to European Union health certification requirements.
Work is progressing on the genetics of koi herpesvirus (KHV) disease, and in particular the relationship between clustered disease outbreaks. Initial findings indicate that outbreaks within clusters are a result of genetically distinct viruses indicating separate introductions of disease, rather than spread from nearby water bodies.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
Further studies have taken place on the occurrence of haplosporidian parasites and their relationship to mortality events in shellfish. Haplosporidium nelsoni - previously known as MSX (multinucleated unknown) - has been found in low prevalence in populations of farmed Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) experiencing mortalities. As has the related parasite Haplosporidium costale, which caused a condition known as seaside organism disease (SSO) in the Virginian oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in the USA. However in all cases the prevalence of the parasites is very low, with no evidence of a related pathology. There remains a possibility that these parasites are an incidental finding and unrelated to the mortality events. Work is continuing to establish the cause of the mortalities in Pacific oysters.
The FHI provided advice to Marine Scotland Science on the management of Pacific oyster movements from and between Bonamia ostrea controlled areas. This was specifically in relation to a site in a Scottish sea loch where a long term eradication programme for Bonamia ostrea is in place.
Other advice on shellfish health included the provision of information to London Port Health Authority on movement controls and health certification requirements for the export of shellfish from the Thames estuary and surrounding creeks, and on the potential for native oysters Ostrea edulis to act as a vector for the transfer of oyster herpesvirus OsHV-1 µvar
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||118|
|Routine disease inspections||111|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||3|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||1|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||0|
|Routine disease inspections||0|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||4|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
4. Investigations and enforcement
Intelligence has been received by a number of government agencies regarding illegal activities connected with trade in live European eel elvers. Trade in elvers is complex and is subject to strict legal controls. This is to protect the species from over exploitation. The fishery is artisanal and is highly seasonal in nature, only occurring during spring tides for a limited period in late winter.
A joint operation was undertaken in conjunction with Environment Agency (EA) officers on elver fishermen on the River Severn. This was to gather intelligence on the applicants for a new elver station in Gloucestershire. This was followed up with a visit to the new elver station to inform the operators of the regulatory framework. Intelligence gathered has been submitted to interested parties in line with the relevant data protection act requirements. Intelligence continues to be successfully shared between the FHI, UK Border Force, Convention on Trade in Endangered Species officials, the EA and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
The FHI will be seeking a formal memorandum of understanding between the agencies involved in the investigations into offences against the eel regulations in order to ensure that any operations are conducted in a National Intelligence Model compliant manner.
An operation has been undertaken with Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, the Marine Management Organisation and the FHI on illegal activities associated with shellfish harvesting and marketing from Poole Harbour. Approximately eight offences were identified and will be taken forward by the appropriate agency. The FHI issued warning letters in relation to movement and import compliance offences. Further joint operations into illegal activities in Poole Harbour are planned in the future.
The FHI supported the Animal and Plant Health GM Inspectorate in the investigation and seizure of genetically modified fish from four ornamental fish outlets in northern England, in contravention of legislation on the sale of such animals.
Other investigations were undertaken in relation to failure to report mortalities, failure to maintain effective biosecurity and into reports of unauthorised farming of fish.
Intelligence continues to be populated into the FHI intelligence database where it is assessed, categorised and used for tasking and coordination purposes.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||7|
5. Advice and representation
National biosecurity is considered to be of high importance in relation to Defra strategic objectives. In March, Kevin Denham attended the Secretary of State’s monthly Biosecurity Meeting, a forum that considers current threats to biosecurity. He delivered a presentation to the Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss, the Minister of State George Eustice and senior Defra officials, on aquatic animal health focussing on the risks presented by Gyrodactylus salaris.
In 2015 the European Union’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) undertook a series of fact finding missions to member states and EFTA countries on barriers to the further development of aquaculture. In March, Alasdair Scott and Richard Gardiner attended a workshop organised under the Better Training for Safer Food initiative where the findings of the FVO were presented and assessed.
This workshop was followed by a meeting of northern European member states organised by the Marine Institute, Republic of Ireland, which focussed on the disease issues, transport of fish and the establishment of a common approach to the draft EU aquatic animal health regulations.
Kevin Denham attended an earth observation and open data workshop organised by Defra to identify potential applications for the use of satellite imagery in disease surveillance and control
Nick Stinton delivered a presentation at the Fish Veterinary Society’s spring meeting on diseases in recirculation aquaculture. This very successful two day meeting focussed on the various challenges faced in the establishment and further development of recirculation aquaculture systems.
A familiarisation visit to a major shellfish farm in Poole Harbour was organised by FHI Mike Gubbins and Chris Evans for a number of Defra officials from the aquatic animal health policy team and the aquaculture and shellfish policy teams.
This was followed by a familiarisation visit for Defra aquatic animal health officials to the Border Inspection Post at Heathrow airport and to the premises of a major ornamental fish importer
Yvonne Ball is a member of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England with responsibility for aquaculture. The FHI organised a visit to a shellfish farm and hatchery in order to provide Yvonne with an understanding of the farming practices and challenges in this sector.
The FHI attended two large trade shows in order to inform and advise stakeholders on biosecurity and aquatic animal diseases.
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 – January to March
6.2 Email survey – January to March
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||842|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||11,494|
|Movement document applications||66|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||277 (100% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||41 (82% 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 128. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||4|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 80. The breakdown is as follows:
|United Arab Emirates||3|
9. Next quarter
- Conclusion of the spring SVC monitoring programme.
- Preparation for the KHV sentinel programme.