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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2018/fhi-quarterly-report-1-april-to-30-june-2018
1. Finfish, shellfish and amphibian health
Finfish compliance inspections undertaken for this year to the end of June were ahead of target with 74% completed, corresponding closely with the number of inspections completed at this stage in 2017. As far as disease surveillance inspections on salmonid fish farms are concerned, monitoring for VHS, IHN and Gyrodactylus salaris is 62% completed, with a total of 101 visits undertaken so far for 2018. The spring surveillance programme on fish farms holding species susceptible to spring viraemia of carp (SVC) virus came to the end as water temperatures rose above the permissible level for clinical expression of the disease, with 97% of inspections completed. Importer compliance inspections are 33% completed, a lower percentage than in previous years due to the need to give priority to the SVC inspection programme whilst water temperatures remained in the permissible range. Isolation compliance inspections are 64% completed and are on target for delivery within the scheduled time frame. The remainder of the surveillance programme on salmonid farms and on fish farms holding SVC susceptible species is scheduled for completion during autumn.
The surveillance programme for molluscan diseases in England and Wales commenced as ambient water temperatures rose above the minimum threshold for expression of listed diseases. This inspection programme will be completed during the summer and autumn period.
Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/320 introduced control measures on intra-Union and third country trade in salamanders and newts. The FHI is responsible for the operational delivery of these controls, and has worked closely with Defra, APHA and trade bodies in ensuring that measures are in place for the application of the trade controls from 1 July 2018, with full implementation by 1 September 2018. Advice to stakeholders on the new trade rules has been published on GOV.UK. The FHI is continuing to work with the trade body in establishing an approved quarantine facility for imported salamanders and newts.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
A cold early spring, followed by a protracted period of rapidly increasing water temperatures, resulted in a high number of reports of mortalities in common carp in managed fisheries. Inspectors placed 15 initial designations on fisheries during the quarter on suspicion of the presence of listed (notifiable) disease. At the end of June, three fisheries were confirmed as positive for the presence of koi herpesvirus (KHV) disease at sites in Essex, Nottinghamshire and West Midlands. All three fisheries are subject to statutory control through Confirmed Designations.
The FHI delivers a long-standing surveillance programme on live fish imported from third countries where samples of fish are tested for the presence of diseases at point of import or at first destination. This programme is risk-based with samples prioritised according to volume of trade and the previous history of disease testing. This programme has proven to be invaluable in protecting the UK from the introduction of serious diseases, such as SVC, and has also contributed to the identification of new and emerging diseases. In May 2018 a consignment of goldfish was subject to diagnostic testing, with initial results indicating the presence of a viral infection. Statutory controls were placed on businesses that were recipients of the fish whilst further investigations were undertaken. Tests for the listed (notifiable) disease of goldfish SVC were negative, as were tests for goldfish herpesvirus. Further molecular genetics tests were undertaken, along with the use of transmission electron microscopy, to visualise the virus. Gene sequencing of the virus demonstrated a 99% shared nucleotide identity with Chinook salmon Bafinivirus. This is the first time that this genus of virus has been found in goldfish.
Closely related viruses have been isolated from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), white bream (Blicca bjoerkna) and muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). The significance of the finding of a Bafinivirus in goldfish and the risk the virus poses to the UK freshwater fish species is currently unknown. Further work will be undertaken to determine the host range and pathogenicity of the virus. Virus specific assays will also be undertaken to determine whether the virus is present in the UK.
Following a large-scale mortality event at a managed fishery, where 75% of the fish stocks were believed to have died, the FHI undertook a disease investigation. Histopathological examination showed a distinct granulomatous response in the gills of the fish as a result of an infection by an intracellular parasite. The structure of the parasite was indicative of Dermocystidium sp. This is a genus of parasite of uncertain affinity with some workers considering it to be a protistan whilst others believe it to be a fungus. Whilst several species of Dermocystidium have been described infecting freshwater fish, large scale mortalities of this nature are unusual.
Bacteria of the genus Aeromonas are common pathogens of fish with some species, notably Aeromonas salmonicida the causative agent of furunculosis known to cause serious disease. Other species, such as A.hydrophila, are opportunistic pathogens often associated with skin lesions in fish. The FHI investigated a mortality of carp in a syndicate fishery. Bacterial swabs were taken from the kidney of a fish with extreme skin lesions on both flanks. Aeromonas veronii was cultured from the kidney swabs indicating a systemic infection of this bacterium. This is the first record of this bacterium infecting fish in the UK. Published reports of A.veronii infecting fish primarily relate to infections in tropical and sub-tropical species such as tilapia and snakehead. The presence of A.veronii in the UK may reflect the high ambient water temperatures experienced during spring. It may also reflect improved sampling and diagnostic techniques as this bacterium can be cryptic and may be frequently overgrown in culture by other members of the Aeromonas genus.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish and Amphibians
In June the FHI received notification from researchers at a University in Wales of the possible presence of the protozoan parasite Marteilia cochillia in cockles Cerastoderma edule collected from the Dyfi (Dovey) estuary as a part of the BlueFish Ireland-Wales project. This study involved the screening of Irish and Welsh cockle populations for parasites using molecular genetic methodologies. The researcher reported the presence of gaping cockles at the surface when the samples were collected. Whilst M.cochillia is not listed by the OIE, or in European aquatic animal health legislation, it has been associated with large scale mortalities of cockles in three Spanish estuaries.
The FHI followed-up this report with a structured sample across the intertidal zone of the Dyfi estuary. Molecular genetic testing by PCR and gene sequencing confirmed the presence of M.cochillia in the cockles. However, this finding was not confirmed in duplicate histological examination of the same cockles, indicating that infection was at a very low level.
Periodic mass mortalities of cockles have been reported in the UK and in Europe for many years. The wide range of parasites that naturally occur in cockles are thought to contribute to the mortalities. However the FHI will be undertaking disease surveillance in cockle populations across England and Wales in order to establish the extent and impact of infection with M.cochillia.
There were several other parasites seen in the histological sections including the flatworms Bucephalus sp., Nematopsis sp., Gymnophallus sp, Himasthla sp. Paravortex sp. and microsporidiosis in a single cockle because of infection with Unikaryon sp. All of these have previously been reported in cockles from other areas so are not unusual, although the intensity of some of these infections was high in number, but not in all the cockles. The age of the cockles and position in the intertidal zone appears to influence the intensity of infection.
The FHI is investigating mortalities in native oysters Ostrea edulis that have occurred in the native oyster restoration programme in the Solent.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||160|
|Routine disease inspections||147|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||32|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||11|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||20|
|Routine disease inspections||3|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||0|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
4. Investigations and enforcement
The FHI has continued to contribute to the multi-agency investigation into the illegal elver trade; the elver season came to an end in May with reports of large catches. Inspections of several elver holding stations were made to ensure that they were operating according to legal requirements. No evidence was found of non-compliance across the sector.
Intelligence received by the FHI, along with colleagues from UK Border Force, resulted in an intercepted consignment of ornamental fish at the port of Dover and seizure of several alligator gar Atractosteus spatula. Many species of gar are considered to present a threat to national biodiversity. The only species of gar currently permitted in trade in the UK is the Florida gar Lepisosteus platyrhincus.
The FHI has engaged with fishermen collecting live wrasse from the waters around the Channel Islands. The animals are to be used as cleaner fish in the Scottish salmon producing sector, the movement of which requires official health certification.
The UK is required to publish a multi-annual national control plan (MANCP) to demonstrate that effective control systems are in place for monitoring and enforcing food and feed laws. The current plan was published in 2013 and covered the period to 2018. The FHI is required to contribute to an annual report on progress towards implementation of the MANCP which documents the enforcement measures applied to ensure that businesses comply with statutory obligations. The full 2017 report will be published on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website www.food.gov.uk.
The Business Impact Target (BIT) is a cross-government target for the reduction of regulation on businesses introduced in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Regulations 2015. The FHI has no qualifying regulatory provisions within scope but is required to publish all non-qualifying regulatory provisions (NQRP) on an annual basis. The FHI NQRP can be found within the report Better Regulation: government’s report, 2017 to 2018 at www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-regulation-annual-report-2017-to-2018
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||2|
5. Advice and representation
The World Organisation for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties – OIE) sets standards for the surveillance, control and diagnosis of both terrestrial and aquatic animal diseases. It is recognised as a reference body by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and as such it establishes the international rules for trade in live animals. The FHI operations manager, is also the UK OIE Focal Point for Aquatics. This role requires the thorough scrutiny of amendments to the OIE standards as published in the ‘Aquatic Animal Health Code’ and in the ‘Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals’, liaison with the devolved administrations, and representation at the EU Co-ordination Aquatics Working Group. In May, the Operations Manager attended the 86th OIE General Session in Paris in support of the UK Chief Veterinary Officer on aquatic animal health. This world assembly of OIE delegates from 181-member countries is convened to adopt international standards for trade and will become an increasingly important forum following the UK exit from the EU.
The 22nd annual workshop of the National Reference Laboratories for fish diseases took place on the 30-31st May. A Fish Health Inspector represented UK at the meeting and presented the national report on our fish health status.
The FHI has continued to provide advice to Defra policy leads on the operational and legislative implications of EU-exit in relation to aquatic animal health and trade in live aquatic animals.
The Head of the FHI attended Defra’s GB Wildlife Diseases Surveillance Group meeting in Bristol where he delivered an update on the status of diseases in wild aquatic animals in England and Wales.
The FHI hosted a meeting of representatives of the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) and Repta, the amphibian and reptile trade association at the Cefas Weymouth laboratory to outline the arrangements for trade in salamanders and newts following the full implementation of Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/320.
A meeting was held with the Defra policy lead on habitats regulations assessments (HRA’s) and consenting shellfish farms as aquaculture production businesses in sites subject to European conservation measures.
The Defra Chief Scientist commissioned an independent expert science review, the quinquennial review, of Cefas that took place in June. The FHI took part in the review which assessed the relevance, sustainability, quality and impact of science and scientific programmes at Cefas.
A Fish Health Inspector continues to lead on the development of a statutory disease surveillance programme for the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries in Oman, under the UK Gulf Marine Environment Programme (UK GMEP). In addition, a Fish Health Inspector contributed to a Cefas project in Thailand on diseases in shrimp aquaculture.
A meeting took place between the FHI and the newly appointed head of aquatic animal health for the Marine Institute, Republic of Ireland, to facilitate the continuance of the excellent cooperation between the countries on fish and shellfish disease controls.
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 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 – April to June
6.2 Email survey – April to June
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||614|
|Movement document applications||124|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||351|
|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 153. The breakdown is as follows:
|Isle of Man||1|
The total number of aquatic trade consignments exported from England and Wales to countries in the EU in the last quarter was 118. The breakdown is as follows: