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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-reports-2018/fhi-quarterly-report-1-january-to-31-march-2018
1. Finfish and shellfish health
The Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) compliance and disease surveillance programmes are organised on a calendar year basis to facilitate the auditing and reporting of activities. The FHI farm inspection programmes have been scheduled for 2018 and this quarter the FHI completed 31% of compliance visits scheduled for fin fish farms, 13% of scheduled coldwater trade importer inspections, and 21% of inspections on sites that maintain isolation facilities for imported coldwater fish. As far as disease surveillance inspections on fish farms are concerned, monitoring for VHS, IHN and GS is 50% completed, with a total of 76 visits undertaken so far for 2018. As this is a temperature dependent programme the remainder of the inspections will be completed during early spring and autumn when water temperatures are below 14°C.
The surveillance programme for mollusc diseases in England and Wales has yet to commence as ambient sea water temperatures have not reached the minimum threshold for the expression of listed diseases.
2. Disease investigations – Finfish
The FHI has received an increased number of reports of persistent infections of the protozoan parasite Ichthyobodo necator (commonly known as costia) in rainbow trout hatcheries, resulting in significant mortalities in juvenile fish. Initial reports indicate that the parasite is becoming increasingly resistant to the most frequently used treatments. The FHI will continue to investigate reports of persistent infections of costia in trout hatcheries.
Defra and the FHI are required to document and maintain disease contingency plans to ensure preparedness for a serious aquatic animal disease outbreak. These are tested every 2 years through a desk-based contingency exercise. These exercises involve a wide range of participants. These include the FHI, Defra, the devolved administrations, the Environment Agency (EA), other Government departments, and trade organisations such as the British Trout Association. In February 2018 a contingency exercise Galatea took place. This exercise was based on a hypothetical outbreak of the exotic disease Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia originating in a trout farm in England, and then subsequently spreading to fish farms in Wales. This exercise was particularly effective in testing areas such as lines of communication between Defra and Welsh Government, engagement with other agencies, and Cefas capacity in a large disease outbreak. The main outcome is to review the exercise to improve the contingency plans.
Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) is a fungal disease caused by the oomycete Aphanomyces invadans. It has been reported as causing disease in over 100 different fish species in both fresh and brackish waters, primarily in tropical and semi-tropical environments. The disease expresses as extensive granulomatous ulceration of the skin at water temperatures more than 20°C. EUS was listed as an exotic disease in European Union legislation under Council Directive 2006/88/EC, and as such member states had an obligation to control and eradicate any outbreaks. However, following a study by the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) which concluded that the disease would be of low impact to European aquaculture, EUS was removed from the listed diseases in 2012.
In December 2017 the FHI received a report of suspicion of EUS in a consignment of snakeheads (Channa aurantimaclata and Channa spp.) imported from India in a fish retailer’s premises in England. Samples taken from infected fish at the supplier’s premises were positive for Aphanomyces invadans, which, combined with the clinical disease, confirmed EUS. The remaining stocks of snakehead were culled, the holding facility disinfected, and the Indian authorities informed of the diagnostic findings. This event is the first confirmation of EUS in the UK. Consequently, the FHI will undertake surveillance on imported susceptible fish species to obtain data on the prevalence of this pathogen in the fish trade.
3. Disease investigations – Shellfish and Amphibians
The role of bacteria of the genus Vibrio as a cause of mortality in shellfish has long been suspected. There is strong evidence that Vibrio aestuarianus is an important pathogen of Pacific oysters. Sampling shellfish for the presence of bacterial infections is challenging due to the wide range of microbiological flora found naturally in the marine environment. The FHI has refined a technique for taking samples from the haemolymph of shellfish that will improve the potential to isolate disease producing organisms. This technique will be applied as standard practice in investigating disease events in shellfish.
Microcytos mimicus was first described from a mortality in farmed Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in Norfolk in 2013, following a period of unusually low water temperatures. This remains the only record of this parasite in the UK. However, Microcytos mimicus has recently been reported causing disease in Pacific oysters in the Netherlands, again following low water temperatures. Fish Health Inspectors will be inspecting stocks of Pacific oysters during the disease surveillance programme for evidence of infection with Microcytos mimicus.
The 2018 annual meeting of National Reference Laboratories for mollusc diseases took place on the 14th to 15th March in La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, France. The FHI’s Shellfish Health and Aquaculture Advisor represented England and Wales at the meeting and presented the national report on our shellfish health status.
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (B.sal) is an emerging pathogenic fungus that causes high levels of mortality in amphibians of the order Caudata (salamanders and newts). It has caused mortalities in wild salamanders in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, and has been recorded in captive populations of newts in the UK. B.sal was subject to an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which concluded that the pathogen presented a serious risk to populations of salamanders in the European Union. Of concern in the UK is the risk of infection in populations of great crested newts (Triturus cristatus). In 2018 the European Commission published Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/320 which introduced control measures on trade in salamanders and newts. Following deliberations by Defra policy leads, and consultations with trade bodies, it was decided the FHI would undertake the operational delivery of the controls on salamanders and newts in England and Wales.
The trade controls require that imports from third countries are quarantined, with options for PCR testing, heat treatment, or chemical treatment of the animals. Trade between member states requires that susceptible animals to be quarantined prior to despatch. The process of identifying importers and trade patterns has commenced, and businesses interested in establishing approved quarantine facilities have been identified. Trade controls will be applied from 1 July 2018 with full implementation by September 2018.
Members of the FHI have met with officials from REPTA, the body that represents the reptile and amphibian traders, and visited premises being considered as approved quarantine facilities.
3.1 Breakdown of fish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||116|
|Routine disease inspections||103|
|Surveillance or sample on suspicion of notifiable disease||12|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
3.2 Breakdown of shellfish activities
|Compliance visits to authorised APBs||10|
|Routine disease inspections||1|
|Surveillance on suspicion of notifiable disease||3|
|Visits resulting from confirmation of notifiable disease||0|
4. Investigations and enforcement
Concerns over the illegal trade in European eel, specifically the export of elvers from Europe to South-East Asia, has again increased. Mainly resulting from the interception of a large elver consignment by the French authorities. The FHI has continued to work in collaboration with the EA on the exploitation of elvers in the South-West of England. The elver harvesting season extends from mid-March to mid-June, with catches at the start of the season indicating that there would be a good harvest in 2018. Intelligence reports indicate that a French company has shown interest in obtaining elvers from the Rivers Parrett and Severn. The FHI has participated with the EA in several monitoring exercises on elver fishing on South-West rivers. In addition, investigations have taken place into a mobile elver station thought to be operating in Gloucestershire.
The FHI has contributed to a comprehensive intelligence report collated by the EA on illegal activities in the elver fishery in South-West England. The FHI intelligence database has received a significant number of reports of illegal activity in the elver fishery in England which have been shared with the EA.
The FHI is working with eBay to remove listings of species of gar (fish of the order Lepisosteiformes) that are not permitted for trade in the UK.
Investigations were undertaken into an illegal movement of fish from England to the Isle of Man (IOM). It took place without the necessary health certification. Following consultation with the IOM authorities it was concluded that the issue would be resolved through a warning letter to the fish dealer.
An investigation was undertaken into reports of a fishmonger in Mudeford, Dorset, holding live American lobsters without an appropriate lobster deposit licence. Whilst the business had no live lobsters on the premises during the investigation, further checks will be made to ensure compliance with legislative requirements.
4.1 Breakdown of investigations and enforcement activities
|Advice and warning letters issued||2|
5. Advice and representation
Under Council Directive 2006/88/EC on aquatic animal health, member states are permitted to have controls on aquatic animal diseases of national importance that are not listed in the Directive. These controls, called Article 43 measures must be approved by the European Commission’s (EC) Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (ScoPAFF). Great Britain has controls on the important fish diseases SVC and GS. The shellfish disease oyster herpesvirus microvariant (OsHV-1 µvar) is also controlled under Article 43 measures. Reports on surveillance programmes for these diseases undertaken in Great Britain (including Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man) are submitted on an annual basis to the European Commission to evidence the national control measures. The reports on 2017 surveillance programmes were submitted to the EC in March 2018.
Senior members of the FHI attended the 4th European network meeting on fish health and welfare held in Kristianstad, Sweden. This is a group of northern European countries including EU member states and non-member states with common aquaculture interests.
A senior inspector attended a workshop on aquatic animal infection facilities: steps to achieving conformity with ISO biocontainment standards organised by the VetBioNet consortium and held as APHA, Weybridge. VetBioNet is a partnership of 28 organisations from 12 countries establishing a network of high-containment research facilities.
The Head of the FHI attended a meeting with representatives of Natural England (NE) and Defra to review the habitats regulation assessment process, and its application to sites of special scientific interest (SSSI’s). As a result, a memorandum of understanding between the FHI and NE on responsibilities for assessments will be drafted.
The head of the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) visited the Cefas Weymouth laboratory to gain a better understanding of the role and responsibilities of the FHI.
Members of the FHI have continued to support aquaculture development in the Sultanate of Oman including developing a legislative framework on aquatic animal health and providing training disease surveillance and in the post-mortem examination and sampling of fish.
A member of the FHI attended the Angling Trust’s Fish Welfare Group meeting where he gave an update on fish diseases of interest to the angling sector.
A member of the FHI delivered a presentation at the Fish Veterinary Society’s spring meeting in Edinburgh on SVC.
The Head of the FHI is a member of Defra’s Marine Transformation Board advice working group. This group is reviewing the provision of advice on aquaculture and assessing improved means of delivery.
The Director of Marine and Fisheries in Defra, visited the Cefas Weymouth laboratory where he met members of the FHI and was given an overview of their work.
Presentations on the work of the FHI were given to the Head of Science and Innovation, British High Commission, South Africa, and representatives of the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) during visits to the Cefas Weymouth laboratory.
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 – January to March
6.2 Email survey – January to March
7. Service charter
Below is a breakdown of our performance against targets in our service charter.
|Telephone enquiries received||559|
|Movement document applications||71|
|Fishery and AAH registrations||175|
|Overall compliance rate within target||98%|
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||5|
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: