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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2016/fhi-quarterly-report-1-october-to-31-december-2016
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The inspection programmes on Aquaculture Production Businesses (APB’s) for compliance with Aquatic Animal Health regulations, and for aquatic animal health surveillance, were completed for 2016 during this quarter. The main emphasis of the early autumn programme is surveillance on farms holding SVC susceptible species. As ambient water temperatures decline the programme effort changes towards surveillance on salmonid farms to reflect the characteristics of the listed diseases of the fish species farmed by this sector. Clinical expression of listed diseases of salmonids such as VHS and IHN occurs at low water temperatures. The aquatic animal health status of the aquaculture sector in England and Wales remains high. The disease surveillance programme on fish farms found no evidence for the presence of listed disease.
Levels of statutory compliance by fish farming businesses are excellent, with most non-compliances restricted to minor administrative issues which were generally resolved through the provision of warning letters and advice. No finfish farming businesses were prosecuted for non-compliance in 2016. Levels of compliance with conditions of confirmed designation have improved, primarily due to increased engagement by Fish Health Inspectors with the fisheries sector.
The shellfish disease surveillance and compliance programmes for 2016 were completed during autumn as the diseases of concern, Bonamia ostreae, Marteilia refringens, and oyster herpesvirus microvariant OsHV-1 µvar are seasonal in nature. The surveillance programmes are scheduled when clinical expression is more likely to be observed as ambient water temperatures decline from the summer maximum.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
As water temperatures fell in early autumn the number of reported disease outbreaks in coarse fish species also declined. The summer period saw an unprecedented number of KHV disease outbreaks in managed fisheries with 31 confirmed designations made during the period June to September. In October, two further cases of KHV disease were confirmed. This brought the total number of confirmed designations made in managed fisheries to 33 in 2016. However as water temperatures on both of the infected fisheries were significantly below 16°C, the permissible minimum temperature for expression of clinical KHV disease, it appears that these outbreaks occurred earlier in the summer and were only reported to the Fish Health Inspectorate after the main disease event. Following investigation, a fishery owner was cautioned and received a formal warning for failure to report suspicion of listed disease in his fish stocks.
Following four years of active surveillance, and no evidence for the continued presence of infection, KHV disease controls were removed from 8 fisheries subject to confirmed designation in 2012 and 1 fishery where the confirmed designation was applied in 2011.
The use of lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus) and various species of the wrasse family Labridae for the biological control of sea lice in Atlantic salmon farms has resulted in increased interest in the aquaculture of these species. Three fish farms in England and Wales are now producing juvenile lumpsucker, either from wild caught broodstock or from imported fertilised ova. However the cultivation of wrasse is more challenging due to the behavioural characteristics of the fish and most of the stock used in Atlantic salmon farms originate as wild caught specimens. A new fishery for wrasse has developed over recent years in the waters around south-west England to the extent that populations are becoming locally depleted. Captured fish are generally held in storage tanks before being transported to Scotland for use in fish farming. Anecdotal evidence suggests that mortality rates of wrasse held in such conditions are high.
On inspection of a fish farm holding wild caught wrasse our Fish Health Inspector observed large numbers of moribund fish and fish exhibiting external lesions. An initial designation (ID) was placed on the fish farm and samples were submitted for diagnostic testing. Preliminary results indicate that the fish were systemically infected with bacteria of the genus Vibrio. This is a challenging genus to differentiate, with many species known to be serious pathogens of marine fish and shellfish. Work is continuing on the identification of the Vibrio isolates, and advice has been provided to the fish farmer on biosecurity and fish welfare. It is likely that a number of new disease conditions may emerge through this use of wild caught wrasse in aquaculture. A baseline study of the pathogens of wild wrasse is planned by Cefas in 2017.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
Inspection of stocks of Pacific oysters farmed at Early Creek in Suffolk, a part of the buffer zone to the north of the Essex and Kent Confirmed Designation area revealed mortalities of around 70% in oyster bags. An initial designation (ID) was placed on the farm whilst diagnostic tests were conducted. Testing confirmed the presence of the wild form of oyster herpesvirus. This genetic variant is not generally associated with disease and is not listed as a controlled pathogen. Stocks of oysters originated from the River Crouch in Essex where wild type oyster herpesvirus is known to occur. It was concluded that this mortality was probably the result of husbandry issues as the oyster bags had accumulated considerable quantities of estuarine mud asphyxiating the oysters.
Pacific oyster cultivation in Great Britain is reliant upon juvenile oysters produced from the three shellfish hatcheries. The production of juvenile oysters is technically challenging, in particular the management of the metamorphosis of the free swimming juvenile larvae to settled oyster spat. All three hatcheries have experienced failures in the settling process and the subsequent early development of the juvenile oysters which has the potential to affect the availability of stock in 2018 for shellfish farms that grow-on oysters for consumption. The FHI undertook disease investigations at a hatchery into mortalities of juvenile oysters. The stocks were found to be free from oyster herpesvirus microvariant. There was also no evidence for the presence of the bacterium Vibrio aestuarianus, an emerging pathogen associated with oyster mortalities in France and Ireland. However histological examination of affected oysters indicated the presence of a bacterial infection. Work is continuing on unexplained mortalities in juvenile oysters.
The carpet sea squirt (Didemnum vexillum) is a colonial tunicate that is believed to originate in Japan. It is regarded as an invasive non-native species and has resulted in detrimental environmental impacts in countries including USA and New Zealand. D.vexillum was first recorded in the UK in 2008 in North Wales, and has subsequently been found in a limited number of other harbours and marinas around the UK. In autumn 2016 Scottish Government reported the presence of D.vexillum at a shellfish farm in Scotland and sought details of movements of juvenile oyster from a hatchery in England. Following an investigation into biosecurity practices at the hatchery it appears unlikely that live juvenile shellfish would provide a pathway for the spread of D.vexillum. Given that the most frequent records of D.vexillum occur in marinas it appears that other pathways are the most likely source of the spread of this organism.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||73|
|Routine disease inspections||75|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||18|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||10|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||22|
|Routine disease inspections||11|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||1|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||1|
4. Investigations and enforcement
In December a consignment of live carp was intercepted at Dover docks by UK Border Force (UKBF). The consignment of carp originating in Poland and probably destined for the Christmas table market was destroyed by the FHI. The importer will be subject to enforcement actions. This successful interception demonstrates the improved cooperation between the FHI and UKBF as a result of the One Government at the Border initiative.
The FHI is working with colleagues in Marine Scotland Science investigating allegations of illegal trade in goldfish and other susceptible fish species from continental Europe into the UK.
The FHI enforcement inspector attended an enforcement group workshop on improving cooperation between Defra regulators in relation to investigations and intelligence sharing in support of Defra’s Target Operating Model.
The FHI field inspectorate team attended a training course at Greater Manchester Police Training College on interviewing under caution and working in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This training received excellent feedback from the Inspectors.
Activity continues to be high in relation to the governments’ better regulation agenda. The FHI contributed to Defra’s Innovation and Regulation plan which government departments are required to publish as outlined in Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||4|
5. Advice and representation
In October Defra hosted a mission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on the UK’s aquatic animal health regulatory regime. The purpose of the mission was to facilitate the continuation of trade in live aquatic animals for retail of food under the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. Whilst the audit covered the breadth of aquatic animal health controls particular emphasis was placed upon the shellfish sector. Prior to the audit the CFIA requested documentation in respect of the UK’s regulatory framework, inspection programmes and the quality management system in relation to disease surveillance and diagnosis. A comprehensive programme included audits of the Cefas Weymouth laboratory and the APHA Border Inspection Post (BIP) at Heathrow airport, visits to shellfish farms in Cumbria, Whitstable Bay, Kent and Guernsey. The Canadian auditors were accompanied by representatives of the Fish Health Inspectorate, Defra, and, in the case of Guernsey, officials from the States of Guernsey during the site visits. The mission was considered a success and initial indications from the CFIA officials was that the UK has a robust and thorough regulatory system in place. Of particular note the CFIA officials described the Cefas quality management system as exemplary.
Immediately following the CFIA audit, a senior Fish Health Inspector accompanied the veterinary programme officer of the CFIA animal import export division (AIED) on a familiarisation visit to a fish farm and dealership as a preliminary to a possible trade agreement between Canada and the UK on live ornamental fish.
In November Defra held its annual research and policy meeting at the Cefas Weymouth laboratory. The Head of the FHI gave an overview of aquatic animal health controls in England and Wales and a disease update for 2016, and a senior inspector demonstrated the Starfish database and the new innovation for the collection of data by electronic means through the use of Tablet technology (called the FHIPad).
The Starfish database and FHIPad was demonstrated to officials of APHA who work on the farm visits programme and are investigating best practice in relation to data collection and management.
The Head of the FHI presented an update on wild aquatic animal disease reports for 2016 to the GB Wildlife Disease Surveillance Partnership in December.
A Fish Health Inspector attended the autumn Angling Trust Fish Welfare Group meeting where an update on fish health in 2016 with particular emphasis on biosecurity on fisheries was given.
Representatives attended the British and Irish Aquarium and Zoo Association (BIAZA) National Aquarium Conference in Bournemouth international Centre (BIC) where they represented the FHI on the Cefas trade stand.
The Head of the FHI attended the working group on the impact of disease control measures organised by a Cefas epidemiologist in order to obtain the expert opinion of representatives of the British Trout Association on various disease outbreak scenarios.
In October a Fish Health Inspector acted as a technical expert to the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) on a mission to the Czech Republic on aquaculture
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 ATA 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 Email survey – October to December
These were not undertaken this quarter.
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||706|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||12,274|
|Movement document applications||51|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||235 (100% achieved)|
|Test results and visit only letters||Unavailable due to technical issues|
|Overall compliance rate within target||100%|
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:
|Isle of Man||3|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 48. The breakdown is as follows: