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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2017/fhi-quarterly-report-1-july-to-30-september-2017
1. Finfish and shellfish health
Good progress has been made in maintaining the delivery of the compliance and inspection programmes on fin fish farms during a challenging quarter due to a high level of reported disease outbreaks. The fin fish farm compliance programme is approaching 80% completion, a significant increase in programme completion as compared with this stage in 2016. The remaining salmonid farm inspections are scheduled for the autumn/winter period. The KHV disease programme was completed whilst water temperatures were conducive for the expression of clinical disease. The inspection target was exceeded due to an increased number of unscheduled visits to ensure compliance with statutory conditions on infected sites. A great effort has been made by field inspectorate teams to ensure that all programmes remain on target for completion by the end of the calendar year.
Disease surveillance programmes on shellfish farms in England and Wales are temperature dependent due to the biological characteristics of the listed diseases of molluscan shellfish. Disease surveillance and compliance inspection programmes commence in spring and extend through to autumn. To date good progress has been made in discharging the 2017 programme with 75% completed during the quarter.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
The surveillance programme for the listed parasite Gyrodactylus salaris in wild Atlantic salmon stocks proved to be challenging due to high rainfall in the sampling areas during the summer period. This programme is undertaken in conjunction with Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales population surveys of salmonids on river catchments. Water conditions proved to be unsuitable to safely access the waters with only 30% of the samples being obtained. As this is a five-year rolling sampling programme additional samples will be sought next year to meet the programme target.
Ambient freshwater temperatures in stillwaters showed an unusual pattern in 2017 with median temperatures reaching a peak of 23.8°C in June before declining in both July and August. This temperature pattern appears to be the significant factor in the earlier onset of disease outbreaks in coarse fisheries as compared with previous years. The FHI investigated 52 mortality events involving common carp and other coarse fish species and a total of 26 Initial Designations (ID) were placed on fisheries on suspicion of listed disease. Of these, 21 fisheries proved to be positive for KHV disease and were subsequently subject to Confirmed Designation (CD). This represents a reduction in KHV disease outbreaks compared with the 32 positive sites in 2016, the highest number of outbreaks yet recorded. This may reflect the lower summer water temperatures experienced in 2017, resulting in a shorter timescale for the expression of clinical KHV disease.
Following an epidemiological study of KHV disease outbreaks since the disease was made notifiable in 2007 a report was submitted to Defra recommending that the length of the restrictions placed on infected waters post disease outbreak was reduced from four years to 18 months. This change in the control programme reflects evidence that indicates that the risk of the transfer of infection is considered very low after overwintering followed by a summer period when water temperatures are such that clinical disease would occur should infection be present. Infected sites will be subject to disease surveillance whilst under confirmed designation, with the statutory controls removed after 18 months should there be no evidence for the continued presence of the disease. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural affairs and Biosecurity, Lord Gardiner, approved this change to KHV disease control policy.
The FHI has continued to obtain good cooperation from the fishing sector around the south-west coast of England in relation to the authorisation of wrasse holding facilities as aquaculture production businesses (APB’s). This authorisation brings these holding facilities into the scope of aquatic animal health legislation and so requires the keeping of movement and mortality records which will be subject to regular aquatic animal health inspections. As scientific information on the diseases of wrasse is sparse and disease conditions are emerging from the aquaculture of these species, the FHI is contributing to a baseline study of wrasse diseases through the sampling of fish from a number of geographically distinct areas around the south-west coast. This work will increase the knowledge base on wrasse diseases, inform the aquaculture sector, and result in a lower reliance upon wild caught fish.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
Unexplained mortalities in cultivated Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas have been reported in estuaries in south-west England for several years. The mortalities generally occur in mid to late summer. Standard diagnostic testing has to date failed to identify a causative agent, with no evidence for listed diseases in the affected animals. The FHI is working with Cefas researchers to utilise new diagnostic methodologies including techniques to identify and characterise members of the Vibrionaceae family of bacteria which are known to cause mortality in shellfish. In addition, environmental samples and shellfish samples have been taken from sites that have has multiple mortality events in order to characterise the aquatic pathobiome around the shellfish farms, using advanced molecular genetics techniques which may aid the identification of any pathogenic agents.
Several enquiries were received about the impact of the listed parasite Bonamia ostreae which is present in a number of important shellfish harvesting areas in England. Advice was provided to NRW on the implications of infection in the native oyster Ostrea edulis restoration scheme in Milford Haven, advice to Natural England on shellfish movement restrictions in infected areas in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and to prospective oyster farm leaseholders in the Helford estuary.
Advice was also provided to Marine Scotland Science on potential methods for the mass destruction of bivalve molluscs as a mechanism to control the potential introductions of the invasive carpet sea squirt Didemnum vexillum.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||57|
|Routine disease inspections||100|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||60|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||114|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||67|
|Routine disease inspections||38|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||7|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
4. Investigations and enforcement
Earlier in 2017 the FHI supported UK Border Force in the interception of a large illegal consignment of European eel elvers that originated in Spain and were destined for transhipment through the UK to China. The export of elvers from the European Union is not permitted. The FHI facilitated the transfer of the live elvers back to Spain where they were re-introduced into the wild. Witness statements have been submitted to UK Border Force who are the leading agency in pursuing a prosecution against the alleged exporter.
The FHI has continued to support the Angling Trust’s Fisheries Enforcement Support Service which assists police and the Environment Agency in tackling fisheries crime and contributes to the protection of fish and fisheries. In recent months training has been delivered by Fish Health Inspectors at Voluntary Bailiff Scheme induction days held in Lancashire, Kent and Gloucestershire.
The FHI worked in conjunction with police attached to National Wildlife Crime Unit to gain access to a fishery in Lancashire following reports by a member of the public of large scale mortalities of fish. The owner of the fishery was known to be hostile to authority. Examination of the fish stocks indicated that the mortality was a result of poor environmental conditions. The Fish Health Inspectors involved in the inspection have subsequently made follow-up visits to the site and have established an effective working relationship with the fishery owner. A new Defra initiative is under development to improve counter-fraud capabilities across the group building upon a Cabinet Office framework. This recognises 8 key components for an effective counter-fraud capability: prevention, detection, risk assessment, measurement, data analytics, intelligence, investigation, and penalties & sanctions. The FHI are contributing to the intelligence, and investigations working groups which are tasked with ensuring that the Defra group meet Cabinet Office standards.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||5|
5. Advice and representation
The Defra annual stakeholder meeting was held in London in July, and attended by representatives of the devolved administrations, trade bodies and other government departments and agencies where the head of the Fish Health Inspectorate presented an update of FHI activities for 2017.
The Fish Health Inspectorate has provided the Defra aquatic animal health policy team with advice on the range of European Union and national legislation that impacts upon aquatic animal health in order to inform decisions on policy in relation to British exit from the European Union.
A senior shellfish inspector attended the Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB) mollusc committee meeting to represent Cefas on aquaculture and shellfish diseases issues.
Advice was provided to the Defra animal welfare team on a draft statutory instrument, The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations 2018, in relation to the potential impact of this legislation on the aquaculture sector.
An inspector attended the European Association of Fish Pathologists (EAFP) 18th international conference on diseases of fish and shellfish held in Belfast, Northern Ireland where he delivered a presentation on the control of KHV disease in England and Wales.
The Fish Health Inspectorate’s Operations Manager oversaw the completion of two research projects completed by Cefas on the use of cyanide in the capture of tropical marine fish for the ornamental fish trade. These projects had the aim of assessing methods to detect cyanide and its metabolites in fish.
The Fish Health Inspectorate contributed to a series of publications drafted by the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) of good practice guidelines for fish keepers.
A member of the Fish Health Inspectorate attended a meeting with OATA officials where issues including procedures for dealing with missing import paperwork, the rules on trade in gars and snakeheads (Channa sp.), and developments on the control of the fungal disease of newts Batrachocytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) were discussed.
Advice was provided to Defra on a revised Commission implementing decision on certain animal health protection measures in relation to the fungus Batrachocytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).
An inspector delivered the Fish Health Inspectorate annual review at the Coarse Fish conference at Sparsholt College, Hampshire.
The head of the Fish Health Inspectorate was invited to present at the British Trout Association (BTA) annual general meeting in Lechlade, Gloucestershire on current Cefas research programmes in relation to diseases of trout. Yvonne Ball, the aquaculture representative on the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) spoke at the same meeting on the role of the Board.
An inspector provided advice to Defra in relation to an FOI request on animal welfare in relation to the transport of wild caught wrasse for use in the Scottish salmon farming industry.
An inspector hosted a visit to a trout farm for representatives of the Instituto De Fomento Pesquero, the Chilean Fisheries Development Institute.
6. Customer Surveys
The Fish Health Inspectorate 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 – 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||707|
|Movement document applications||86|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||147|
|Overall compliance rate within target||99.5%|
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 158. 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 81. The breakdown is as follows: