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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2017/fhi-quarterly-report-1-october-to-31-december-2017
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The inspection programme on aquaculture production businesses for compliance with aquatic animal health regulations, and for aquatic animal health surveillance, was completed for 2017 during this quarter. The main emphasis of the early autumn programme is surveillance on farms holding SVC susceptible species. As water temperatures fall the programme effort migrates towards surveillance on salmonid farms.
The seasonal visit programme results for the final quarter of the calendar year reveal that the FHI undertook 70 compliance visits, achieving a total of 92% of the 2017 scheduled visits. The results vary from the number of scheduled visits forecast at the beginning of the year due to newly authorised sites being activated during the year. 81% of the total scheduled coldwater trade importer inspections and 105% of Regulation 23 isolation site visits were completed this year. Routine disease inspections on fish farms for KHV totalled 107% completed and SVC 85% completed for 2017. The monitoring programme for Gyrodactylus salaris in wild fish stocks achieved fewer samples than forecast due to poor weather conditions during the sampling period which prevented safe access to rivers.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
Whilst reported disease outbreaks in the trout farming sector remain at a low level, the FHI were informed of a serious mortality at a trout farm and fishery complex in southern England. Investigations showed that the fish were infected with a wide range of pathogens including white spot (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) which resulted in damage to the gills, the enterobacterium Yersinia ruckeri, the causative agent of enteric red mouth (ERM), and puffy skin. Infected fish were believed to have been introduced during restocking of the fishery waters. This event demonstrates that common pathogens continue to have economic significance in the trout farming sector, and the application of effective biosecurity measures can contribute to healthier stock and more profitable businesses.
In October two managed fisheries were found to be infected with KHV disease following significant mortality in their common carp populations. The sites were subject to Confirmed Designations. This brought the total number of managed fisheries designated for KHV disease in 2017 to 23, which is significantly higher than the annual average of 14 confirmed designations. In addition, a KHV disease outbreak occurred at a registered aquaponics unit where significant loss occurred in the stocks of fish to the extent that the owner elected to cull the small number of survivors and disinfect the system prior to restocking.
During 2017 reports of significant numbers of the non-native species the pink salmon Oncorhynchus gorbuscha have been reported entering rivers along the east coast of England and Scotland. In addition, salmon nets operating along the east coast have reported increased catches of this species. The fish are believed to have originated from a population introduced into northern Russia as a stock ranching experiment and which are in the process of establishing populations in northern European rivers. The FHI obtained samples of pink salmon from fish captured in the Rivers Tyne, Wear and Frome for viral screening. Whilst all samples proved negative for listed viruses, further surveillance will take place in 2018 should incursions of this species continue.
Under the EU Data Collection Framework (DCF) the UK is required to provide economic and production information on the aquaculture sector to the EC Joint Research Centre (JCR) on behalf of DG MARE. Data are examined annually by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) for quality and completeness. Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/1251 requires the collection of additional variables on sustainability, namely data on mortality rates, and on medicines use. Changes have been made to the Starfish database, and FHIPAD to facilitate the on-farm collection of the data which will commence during the 2018 fin fish farm inspection programme. This will be the first dataset that provides data on the actual use of antimicrobial medicines by fish farms in the UK.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish
The FHI has received reports of chronic mortalities in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas from a number of farms in south-west England. Disease investigations have failed to identify the cause of these mortalities. In France a condition known as summer mortality affects juvenile populations of Pacific oysters during the warmer months when the water temperature is greater than 18°C. The condition has been associated with environmental stress and low dissolved oxygen. Researchers have observed high level of Vibrio spp. in affected animals. Investigations by the FHI have shown the presence of Vibrio aestuarianus in some of the affected animals from the south-west shellfish farms. Certain strains of this bacteria are known to be immunosuppressive and further work is planned on affected sites during the summer in order to establish the role of this species in the shellfish mortality events.
Further evidence for the involvement of gram negative bacteria of the family Vibrionaceae as primary pathogens of shellfish is accumulating as unexplained mortality events in cultivated shellfish are investigated. The isolation and identification of pathogenic bacteria in shellfish is challenging due to the biological and environmental factors. The FHI has developed a new method for investigating bacterial infections in shellfish through the sampling of haemolymph of moribund animals. This technique has greatly improved the potential to isolate Vibrio spp. from shellfish and so will contribute to the identification of cause of mortality in shellfish.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||95|
|Routine disease inspections||74|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||33|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||7|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||38|
|Routine disease inspections||15|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||9|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||4|
4. Investigations and enforcement
In October the FHI signed an Information sharing agreement with the Angling Trust. This is a good step forward in sharing intelligence with the trust, who will at the end of this year have 500 additional Volunteer Bailiffs. The first tranche of 100 Voluntary Bailiffs are now warranted to the same level as EA fishery officers. The FHI has continued to support the Voluntary Bailiff Scheme and delivered a number of training sessions during this period.
The prosecution for the illegal exports of glass eels, intercepted at Heathrow airport in March 2018 has been significantly delayed because of the substantial amount of evidential material that was uncovered by the National Crime Agency. Evidence provided by the FHI comprises a significant proportion of the casefile.
In November the FHI took part in a multi-agency meeting in preparation for the coming elver season in early 2018. The meeting showed a significant step forward in terms of interest and attendance from other parties and included the EA, UKBF CITES Team, Natural Resource Wales, various Police teams, National Crime Agency and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. As a result, a smoother flow of intelligence has been witnessed and all agencies are better prepared than in any previous years in advance of the 2018 elver season.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||2|
5. Advice and representation
The annual Defra operations, policy and research meeting was held at the Cefas Weymouth laboratory in November where the Head of the FHI presented the annual overview of FHI activities in 2017. Following this meeting a Fish Health Inspector conducted a familiarisation visit to a large commercial trout farm attended by Defra officials, and the aquaculture representative of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England.
The Head of the FHI attended the Defra Field Activity Programme Integrated Services Pilot meeting at Natural England offices in Crewe where the initial farm activity data modelling was presented, and opportunities for cooperative working across the Defra agencies considered. The FHI is to explore opportunities for joint working on imports with APHA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI), and on fish farm screen inspections with the Environment Agency.
Work in preparation for the UK exit from the European Union is continuing with the FHI providing support to Defra policy leads in relation to the current scope of EU legislation in relation to aquaculture and aquatic animal health, import, export, broader trade in animals and related products, and the scope of the EU directive and associated legislation.
The FHI is also contributing to a series of Defra workshops in relation to an EU exit project which has the aim of developing a minimum operating capability in order to facilitate day one preparedness. An inspector who has extensive experience in the provision of technical support to the FEU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) during aquatic animal health audits, is representing the FHI on the project.
The Cabinet Office’s Customer Service Excellence (CSE), seeks to ensure that government services for all that are efficient, effective, excellent, equitable, and empowering. The award is reassessed annually through an external audit process undertaken by an independent organisation G4S Assessment Services Ltd. Following a rigorous audit the FHI has retained the award for a further year. The FHI remains the only part of the core Defra family that has achieved CSE.
Members of the FHI attended Aqua 2017, the UK’s aquatics trade show which provides an opportunity to disseminate information on biosecurity, and to engage with businesses involved in the import of live aquatic animals.
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 – October to December
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||652|
|Movement document applications||93|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||169|
|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 122. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||2|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 98. The breakdown is as follows: