Are Your Fish Healthy?
I Certainly Hope So! We spend a great deal of time of time, effort
and money to ensure that they are healthy and would never send
anything out that we weren't a 100% happy with.
We have strict bio security controls on the farm to ensure that
the fish we produce are healthy and strong when we deliver them
to you. We have a huge amount of fish at the farm and one of the
easiest ways to infect them would be by introducing infected fish
there. We get around this by completely banning any stock introductions
that haven't come from our own hatchery. The only fish taken onto
the farm are tiny fry, the sort of size where you carry 100,000
in a bucket, which are grown in our hatchery each spring. No other
fish are ever taken onto the farm to avoid the possibility of unwittingly
introducing a parasite or other pathogen. Even the brood fish are
All the equipment we use to harvest and grade fish is dedicated
to the farm and never used anywhere else, even the staff have separate
waders and clothing for use on the farm and another set for work
elsewhere. The farm is organised so that each pond is drained down,
limed and cultivated regularly to eradicate any risk of disease
or parasite carry over between ponds or between crops of fish.
We do not allow any fishermen onto the farm to ensure that no parasites
are introduced from their nets or other kit.
By ensuring that the fry taken onto the farm are
completely healthy and then ensuring that nothing else, neither
fish, equipment or un necessary people, are ever allowed onto the
farm whilst they are growing, we reduce the risk of ever contracting
serious health problems. This is called Bio security and it works.
Fish Health Testing
There is no point in going to all the trouble of
growing these fish for up to three years on the farm if they are
not healthy when we come to sell them and so through the whole
production process we keep a very close eye on a range of potential
health issues. In addition to our own regular examinations, we
employ an independent fish health specialist to examine our fish
and provide us with a Fish Health Certificate. Currently the specialist
we use is Ian Welby of the company Blueroof. Ian was formerly a
Fish Health Scientist at the Environment Agency Fish Health Labs
at Huntingdon. These Health Certificates are lodged with The Environment
Agency at Huntingdon and are used in the Section 30 Stocking consent
Viruses. The Big Killers.
Spring viraemia of Carp
Whilst parasites are irritating to fish, they are
rarely fatal. The biggest killers of carp are viruses. Spring Viraemia
of Carp (SVC) first popped up in the early 90’s and can be
devastating. It is a notifiable disease, which means that if it
occurs or is suspected of being present, CEFAS swing into action
in an attempt to eradicate it. Generally, it occurs after the introduction
of infected fish and will often kill the indigenous fish and not
those introduced. SVC occurs widely in continental Europe which
is why we are not allowed to import carp from Europe into the UK,
a position we whole heartedly support. It is alleged by the authorities
that many of the SVC outbreaks in the UK would appear to be associated
with illegal imports of big carp, which continue to enter this
country. The problem is that folk going into the market and waving
a lot of cash around will be offered ‘English’ fish,
which in some cases may have been imported and ‘laundered’.
Very often such fish come without paperwork or stocking consents,
so if a disease outbreak occurs, the poor unfortunate owner has
to deny any knowledge of a stocking to avoid prosecution by
the EA. How one gets around this, I am not quite sure.
In any event,
SVC is a serious disease but actually pretty rare and much less
of a problem that we originally feared. As part of the new European
Directive requirement to regularly and routinely screen UK Registered
Fish Farms for SVC (Spring Viraemia of Carp), we provide government
Fish Health Inspectors from CEFAS with samples of fish from across
the farm to check for SVC each Spring. These tests are very accurate
and have always been negative.
Koi Herpes Virus (KHV)
KHV is more of a problem. The virus was
identified in 2003 and is now known to have been responsible for
large scale fish kills all the way back to 1996. Unlike SVC, KHV
can lay dormant in fish for many, many years before something
triggers an infection and a disease outbreak occurs. The problem
here is that there are probably hundreds of fisheries around the
country, which have unwittingly been stocked with infected fish
before KHV was identified. Many of these fisheries will have had
no problems at all but given the right conditions, hot weather,
poor water quality and some other stressor, like very heavy angling
pressure, disease outbreaks do occur and can devastate fisheries.
This pattern appears consistent with disease outbreaks in 2006,
which was very warm and affected mainly intensive commercial fisheries.
2007, much cooler and the UK had fewer problems.
There are good tests
for KHV that will show the virus when there is actually a disease
outbreak and fish are dying. The bad news is that there is not
yet a really good test for identifying fish which are carrying
KHV in the latent stage. There is an indirect test, which looks
for the anti bodies that fish produce when exposed to the virus.
The authorities are working pretty hard on developing new and more
As a result of the KHV (Koi Herpes Virus) outbreaks,
which affected a number of fisheries in the Summer of 2006, we
employed CEFAS to send two of their staff to collect a large sample
of fish from ponds across the farm to test for KHV to enable us
to reassure customers that our fish are free from this virus. These
were exhaustive tests on a large sample of fish using both PCR
and Antibody testing which showed that there was no KHV virus present
in our stock. Since then, KHV has become Notifiable and such testing
will now be a regular feature of the health screening of our fish.
In addition to all these tests, our fish, the farm
and all our movement paperwork is subjected to an Annual Inspection
One of the great advantages in buying from Sport
& Leisure Fisheries is that all the fish are produced in one
place and can be subjected to this kind of detailed health monitoring
and controls. If you choose to buy from a dealer who sources
batches of fish from anywhere he can find them, there will have
been none of this testing and you will have little or no control
over their provenance. In effect you are playing a sort of health
roulette, not just with the fish you buy but also your existing
fish and the future of your fishery.