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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2017/fhi-quarterly-report-1-january-to-31-march-2017
1. Finfish and shellfish health
Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) activities during the first quarter of the year focus on the salmonid farming programme, as the serious diseases that affect this sector are characterised by clinical expression at low ambient water temperatures. The trend of fewer disease reports on trout farms - as experienced in recent years - has continued in 2017, possibly due to better disease awareness, enhanced biosecurity, and good supplies of water.
Good progress has been achieved towards the completion of the FHI disease surveillance and compliance programmes during the early part of the year. All compliance and surveillance visits have been scheduled for 2017. Progress during this quarter shows that the FHI has completed 38% of compliance visits scheduled for fin fish farms, 20% of scheduled coldwater trade importer inspections and 12% of Regulation 25 isolation site visits (sites which have quarantine facilities for imported coldwater ornamental fish). As far as disease surveillance inspections on fish farms are concerned, monitoring for VHS, IHN and Gyrodactylus salaris is 59% completed so far in 2017. As this is a temperature dependent programme the remainder of the inspections will be completed during early spring and the autumn.
Disease surveillance programmes on shellfish farms in England and Wales are temperature related, as clinical expression of listed diseases occurs at higher ambient water temperatures that those that occur in winter and spring. Therefore surveillance and compliance inspections on these sites hasn’t started.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
Concerns have continued to be expressed from a number of sources about the exploitation of wrasse populations around the south-west coast of England. Wrasse of several species, including ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta), rock cook wrasse (Ctenolabris exoletus), and goldsinny wrasse (Ctenolabrus rupestris) are caught by fishermen, kept in holding facilities until sufficient numbers have been obtained, and then transported to Scotland for use as cleaner fish to reduce sea lice populations in marine salmon farms. The FHI has been assisting in a Cefas study into the diseases affecting wild caught wrasse. The fish appear to be particularly susceptible to systemic bacterial infections caused by Vibrio spp. Including Vibrio splendidus which seems to comprise a wide range of different strains. These infections are typical in fish that are experiencing stress, and the FHI is working with those holding wrasse for transfer to Scotland to reduce the levels of mortality and improve the welfare of the fish.
Following reports of atypical Aeromonas salmonicida (the causative agent of furunculosis in salmonids), in lumpsuckers and wrasse, used as cleaner fish in Scottish and Norwegian aquaculture, investigations into the health and welfare of wild caught cleaner fish will include diagnostic tests for this pathogen.
Large numbers of wild caught tropical marine fish are traded across the world for ornamental purposes, and many of these fish are harvested from environmentally sensitive areas - such as coral reefs - through the use of poisons such as cyanide which render the fish quiescent. The fish are then caught and placed into clean water to recover. However such practices have long term detrimental effects upon sensitive habitats, and the fish caught by these means have poor survival rates. In addition larger fish are known to enter the human food chain. Members of the FHI are providing support to studies being conducted at Cefas to assess the most effective means to detect the use of cyanide and its metabolites in fish in order to facilitate the development of rapid tests to be used by dealers and wholesalers and so inform choice in sourcing fish.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
The FHI has continued to support investigations into mortality events in shellfish hatcheries where early stage larvae fail to metamorphose into settled spat. This problem has the potential to result in shortages in juvenile oysters across the Pacific oyster farming sector in GB. Studies are focussing on the presence of Vibrio spp. in the hatcheries and in particular Vibrio aesturianus which has been linked with oyster mortalities in continental Europe.
With the exception of the problems experienced by shellfish hatcheries, the FHI received no reports of mortality events on shellfish farms in England and Wales during January to March 2017.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||135|
|Routine disease inspections||118|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||68|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||18|
|Routine disease inspections||4|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||4|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
4. Investigations and enforcement
The FHI has been working with a number of government agencies investigating illegal activities in relation to trade in live European eels. The European eel is subject to strict legislative controls following a dramatic decline in population levels, both on a national and a European level. In February 2017 the FHI supported the UK Border Force CITES team (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in an interception of a consignment of glass eels at Heathrow airport. The consignment was estimated to comprise some 600,000 individuals, with a weight of 200Kg. The glass eels were thought to have been imported from Spain, and were scheduled for re-export to Hong Kong for the aquaculture sector. It is illegal to export live European eels from the European Union.
Following discussions with the Spanish authorities, agreement was reached to repatriate the glass eels. The glass eels were re-packaged and exported to Spain where they were used for stock enhancement purposes. The investigation disrupted a serious organised crime network, demonstrating excellent inter-agency co-operation. UK Border Force will be seeking to prosecute the offender.
The FHI Enforcement Officer working in conjunction with the Environment Agency has undertaken a series of investigations into alleged illegal harvesting and trade in elvers in the west of England including the existence of unauthorised elver holding stations and illegal movements of elvers.
The FHI Enforcement Officer investigated a Polish food wholesale company following the illegal importation of live common carp for human consumption. The company was provided with an explanation of the rules regarding the import of live fish and a warning letter was issued.
An initiative by the FHI to inform live fish importers of the controls on the import and keeping of gars (family Lepisosteidae) has resulted in the removal of all but two permitted species from trade.
Following joint investigations into illegal activities in relation to shellfish harvesting in Poole Harbour by Southern IFCA, MMO, and the FHI, a fish and shellfish merchant was fined £14,744 at Portsmouth Magistrates Court for offences in relation to the storage and sale of undersized Manila clams.
Members of the FHI attended a 2 day training course on the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 which regulates public bodies in the way in which surveillance and investigations are undertaken. The FHI is one of the Defra regulatory bodies that are authorised to undertake RIPA investigations.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||4|
5. Advice and representation
In January the Cefas Weymouth laboratory hosted a group of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth, Oman, involved in aquatic animal health and food hygiene. Under the UK Gulf Marine Environment Programme the Omani officials received a wide variety of training in areas such as the UK and European Union aquatic animal health regulatory regime, aquatic animal health, and diagnostic methodologies. The training also included visits to fish and shellfish farms with FHI Inspectors to experience compliance and surveillance inspections.
Two members of the FHI participated in a visit to Dubai under the UK Gulf Marine Environment Programme in order to provide advice and assistance in the development of a regulatory framework for the aquaculture sector.
Members of the FHI attended 2 trade shows during spring - the Northern Carp Show held in Manchester, and Carping-on held near Colchester- to provide advice on biosecurity and fish diseases. They were accompanied by a student from University of Leeds who is undertaking a study on practical measures to control non-native species and diseases on fisheries, and on the efficacy of disinfectants in neutralising viruses.
Advice was provided to other government agencies on shellfish farm authorisations in Whitstable Bay, Kent following objections to the expansion of a Pacific oyster farm in the area. In connection with this issue information was subsequently provided on historical shellfish farming and fishing in Whitstable Bay.
A member of the FHI attended the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) mollusc committee meeting at Fishmongers Hall in February 2017.
Information was provided to the Blue Marine Foundation, the organisation managing the Solent native oyster regeneration scheme, on sources of native oysters that are likely to be free from infection with Bonamia ostrea.
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
Not undertaken this quarter
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||865|
|Visitors to GOV.UK website||12,164|
|Movement document applications||77|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||267 (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||5|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 71. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||3|