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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2016/fhi-quarterly-report-1-july-to-30-september-2016
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The past quarter was particularly challenging due to a high number of investigations of disease outbreaks on coarse fisheries in England. However, the delivery of the compliance and inspection programmes on fish farms has been maintained. It is scheduled to be completed to target by the end of this year.
The KHV disease programme was completed whilst water temperatures were favourable for the expression of clinical disease. The inspection target was exceeded because of the number of unscheduled visits to ensure compliance with statutory requirements. However statutory compliance on infected waters has improved compared to previous years, mainly due to our focus on higher levels of engagement by Inspectors with the managed fishery sector.
The FHI has a responsibility, with other appropriate authorities, to undertake habitats regulations assessments as a part of the authorisation process for aquaculture production businesses (APB’s). This is under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended). These assessments are done for APB’s located in sites subject to European conservation measures (or new developments that could impact on such sites). This means, in practice, the requirement only applies to shellfish farms. This quarter the FHI worked closely with Natural England (NE) to develop a process to ensure that the legal responsibilities for conducting HRA’s are clarified, and that we optimise the co-operation between the various authorities involved in licensing or authorising developments. The FHI aims to review all authorisations in relation to habitats regulations assessment requirements by the end of 2017.
The FHI also have responsibility for the application of The Lobsters (Control of Deposit) Order 1981. This legislation was created to protect native European lobster (Homarus gammarus) stocks from the bacterial disease gaffkaemia. But this condition is no longer a listed disease. So in recent years the legislation was used to improve biosecurity in lobster holding facilities and to reduce the risk of American lobsters (Homarus americanus) escaping into UK waters. However the increase in reports of American lobsters in UK waters in recent years has caused concerns over the risk of spread of diseases and of potential hybridisation with native lobsters. As a result, the 1981 Order may be expanded to offer further protection against the escape and deliberate release of American lobsters.
Electronic data collection on fish and shellfish farms through the use of the tablet technology, introduced by the FHI in March 2016, has proven to be highly successful. Very few problems have been encountered. Data is now submitted from Inspectors to the Starfish database in real-time - in-built validation has improved data quality, and the service to fish and shellfish farmers has improved.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
This quarter saw an exceptional number of fish mortality events on managed fisheries. Unusually 3 koi herpesvirus (KHV) disease outbreaks occurred in fisheries in June. This indicated that environmental conditions were likely to be particularly favourable for the expression of clinical disease. This proved to be the case as a long warm summer, with high pressure weather systems prevailing and low rainfall, resulted in ambient water temperatures remaining in the range for KHV disease for a long period. During the quarter the FHI were involved in over 80 investigations into disease outbreaks, the overwhelming majority of which occurred in managed coarse fisheries. Investigations resulted in 38 Initial Designations (ID’s) being placed on suspicion of listed disease. KHV disease was then confirmed on 27 of the sites which were then subject to statutory controls through Confirmed Designations (CD’s). This brought the total number of confirmed KHV disease outbreaks in 2016 to 31 by the end of September, the highest number recorded since the disease was made notifiable in 2007 (the previous highest number was 23 designations in 2014).
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. This rolling programme covers all major catchments in England and Wales, and involves the Environment Agency’s and Natural Resources Wales’s (NRW) field teams working with the FHI to undertake surveys of juvenile salmonid populations on rivers. In 2016 a non-destructive testing method, developed by Cefas, was used for the first time to sample juvenile Atlantic salmon. This method requires the temporary immersion of fish in a hydrogen peroxide solution which removes the gyrodactylids whilst not harming the fish. The gyrodactylids are collected for analysis and the fish returned to the river. This method represents an evolutionary step in sampling for gyrodactylids in both wild and farmed fish populations.
Following reports of low populations of Atlantic salmon fry in the River Usk catchment, the FHI worked with NRW to sample the fish populations to establish the cause of the absence of this year class. Extensive sampling - from a number of sites, and from a fish farm on the catchment - ruled out the possibility of infection with G.salaris. A possible cause is the water temperature profiles at the time that the fry should first start to feed which resulted in the poor recruitment of the year class.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
The first outbreak of oyster herpesvirus microvariant OsHV-1 µvar in the UK occurred on a Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas farm in Whitstable Bay, Kent in 2010. In subsequent years the disease spread along the north coast of Kent, and outbreaks occurred in the Essex creeks and the Blackwater estuary, Essex. In September a sample of Pacific oysters taken from a buffer zone to the north of the Isle of Sheppey, in the Thames estuary, proved to be positive for OsHV-1 µvar. These oysters are a part of a naturally occurring stock that is unmanaged, and as yet unexploited. As a result of this outbreak, the Confirmed Designation on North Kent has been extended to join with the Confirmed Designation in Essex to become the Kent and Essex Designated area (CD23/2016). This extension will enable movements of shellfish within the Thames estuary, and help shellfish farmers manage their stocks whilst protecting unaffected areas.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||46|
|Routine disease inspections||138|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||96|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||139|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||82|
|Routine disease inspections||48|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||8|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||12|
4. Investigations and enforcement
This quarter has seen a great deal of activity around better regulation and the FHI has participated in the Defra Regulators Steering Group meetings and the Defra Regulators Operational Group meetings. The meetings focused on the introduction of legislation in respect of the Business Impact Target, and particularly the methodology for completing impact assessments, the Growth Duty, and the Small Business Appeals Champions.
The FHI participated in a multi-agency operation organised and led by Border Force at the Port of Dover. Whilst no evidence of fish smuggling was discovered, the FHI raised the profile of illegal movements of aquatic animals with other government agencies.
The number and quality of intelligence reports received by the FHI has continued to increase, possibly due to increased social media activity on Facebook and Twitter. All intelligence received is collated, anonymised, assessed, and stored according to National Intelligence Model standards. Shared intelligence, passed to other government agencies, has led to investigations into other illegal activities.
A moderator of a fishkeeping internet forum contacted the FHI about a contributor that was claiming to be a Fish Health Inspector. They were offering advice on a wide range of subjects, including fish health. On examining the postings it was clear that much of the advice was incorrect and of poor quality. An FHI investigation found the individual had no connection with any official service, and had also used the identity of academic staff at a University. The individual was contacted and informed that action would be taken if any further claims of connection with the FHI were made. The internet forum has banned the individual from their site.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||1|
5. Advice and representation
The European Aquaculture Society held its annual conference, which is attended by over 500 delegates, in Edinburgh in September. Senior Fish Health Inspector Mike Gubbins delivered a presentation at the meeting on the emergence of oyster herpesvirus microvariant (OsHV-1 µvar) and its effects upon shellfish aquaculture in the UK.
The British Trout Association held its annual autumn meeting in conjunction with the EAS conference. At the meeting Fish Health Inspector Jason Mewett presented an update on research into puffy skin disease, a major cause of economic loss to the trout farming sector, and Richard Gardiner gave a demonstration of the recently developed Live Fish Movements web service in advance of this application being distributed across the fish farming sector.
The FHI hosted a familiarisation visit to the Cefas Weymouth laboratory for Dominic Whitmee, the new CEO of the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA), who was recruited following the retirement of Keith Davenport. Dominic joined OATA from Defra where he worked as a Senior Biodiversity Policy Adviser.
Fish Health Inspector Chris Evans delivered a presentation on mortality events in the shellfish farming industry in the UK at the British Isles branch of the European Association of Fish Pathologists conference at the University of Stirling.
In August Fish Health Inspector Tamsin Cochrane-Dyet was invited by the Norwegian authorities to observe the treatment of a river catchment in Tromso, Norway, to eradicate the monogenean parasite Gyrodactylus salaris, using the biocide rotenone. This will be the last such treatment in Norway for a number of years due to the complexity of the treatment regime required for the remaining infected river systems.
Tamsin also attended the 11th International Sea Lice Conference in Westport, Ireland. The farming of cleaner fish in England and Wales, in particular lumpsucker and various species of wrasse, is increasing as is the import of lumpsucker ova, and sessions in the conference on diseases of cleaner fish will inform the FHI’s approach to the regulation of these species. The harvesting of wild wrasse from around the UK for use in salmon farming is also of concern, both due to the potential depletion of fish stocks and the risk of the transfer of diseases from the wild into aquaculture.
The FHI achieved the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Standard in 2015, and remains the only team in Defra’s Executive Agencies to achieve this quality standard. The FHI was recently subject to its 2016 audit - undertaken by G4S Assessment Services. The CSE Standard requires at least 46 out of 57 criteria being met. This year compliance was achieved in an additional 4 criteria, with the assessor reporting that he was impressed with the overall progress made and the firm commitment to providing good customer service.
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 advice 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. Results from these surveys are a key performance indicator and are presented at FHI and Cefas management meetings.
6.1 Customer Thermometer – July to September
6.2 Email survey – July to September
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||749|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||16,615|
|Movement document applications||60|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||168 (95% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||(not available due to technical issues with database reporting)|
|Overall compliance rate within target||98%|
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 171. 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 65. The breakdown is as follows:
9. Next quarter
- Complete the finfish and shellfish disease surveillance and statutory programmes for 2016
- Review and debrief of FHI activities in 2016