Deadly fish diseases such as Koi Herpes Virus and Spring Viremia of Carp could soon become a thing of the past as a result of radical new rules due to be introduced in the next few weeks.
The sweeping changes will involve concerted efforts to rid the country of the menace of KHV and will require every fishery in the country to be registered in order to allow the Environment Agency to track and control what fish can and can’t be stocked.
And experts are predicting that Defra will adopt a KHV control and eradication policy that would see all carp in every previously-infected fishery slaughtered, imports of live carp restricted and KHV-proof, inoculated carp banned.
It appears there is no other way for the UK to regain its disease-free status than to kill the tens of thousands of fish that have already been exposed to the disease – and that will raise questions about who will compensate the affected fisheries for their losses.
Although such developments will mean a lot of paperwork for clubs and fishery managers over the next 12 months, they’re being heralded as a victory for anglers and fish farmers.
“No decision has been made yet, but Defra is expected to set the new policy by August 1,” said senior fish health inspector Kevin Denham, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
“Defra will be using the results of our KHV research work, conducted over the last 18 months, to direct their policy. They may well choose to introduce a control and eradication policy in order to clear the UK of the disease.
“If so, people will only be allowed to import carp from KHV-free countries and vaccinated fish will no longer be allowed,” he added.
Although Defra has not allowed Angling Times to see the interim report of Cefas’ research, we believe that it vindicated UK fish farmers of all blame for the spread of disease and instead laid it at the door of the aquatics trade and the uncontrolled import of ornamental fish.
It appears diseases are often spread by the illegal release of infected pet goldfish and koi by unsuspecting members of the public.
The expected changes, if they do come into play, would represent a massive victory for the likes of the English Carp Heritage Organisation (ECHO) and Coarse Fish Farmers and Traders Association, both of which have long been warning about the threat posed by fish imports to wild native fish stocks.
“ECHO would welcome such changes, we’ve been pushing hard for such controls, on both imports and other fish movements, for the past two years,” explained ECHO spokesperson Ruth Lockwood.
“We hope that Defra seizes this unique opportunity to introduce reliable controls that will help safeguard UK fish stocks for future generations,” she added.