Koi Herpes Virus may cost fishing industry £1.87bn

Koi Herpes Virus will cost angling a staggering £1.87 billion in lost earnings over the ext 30 years if it isn’t controlled.

That’s the grim warning from experts this week who predict that, if strict controls on the importation of live carp are not introduced, the deadly disease will continue to spread unchecked, exacting a terrible price on fisheries and the tackle trade.

The dire message is art of an Angling Trust report which comes in the run-up to a crucial Government decision on whether to outlaw the introduction of live carp from other regions of the world where the disease is rife.

The Trust claims that to effectively eradicate the disease in the UK, we need to introduce far stricter controls over imports after recent scientific research revealed ornamental fish posed the greatest risk to our fisheries.

But the fear is that Defra officials will ‘botle’ the decision, and that could leave angling exposed to an influx of infected fish, with no compensation scheme to support those whose livelihoods will inevitably be hit.

“Defra knows there’s a huge problem. Its own scientists have said it should be applying a precautionary principle. The science as proved imports are where the infections come from. It knows damn well how much KHV could cost angling following four years’ worth of lengthy stakeholder meetings and research,” said English Carp Heritage Organisation (ECHO) chairman Ruth Lockwood.

“The problem is Defra doesn’t want to pay for the necessary controls, despite it having a statutory obligation to maintain the welfare of our fish. If it fails in that obligation, then we’ll be sure to make everyone in angling and in Government aware where that responsibility rests,” she said.

The Trust warns that Defra officials have painfully underestimated the integral role carp play to the fundamental fabric of angling, especially as a driver for fishing tackle development and the continued growth of the commercial and specimen fisheries sectors.

Defra’s estimate of the cost to angling of not controlling KHV over the next 21 years is only £3.7m, light years away from the figures estimated by Trust expert Mike Heylin, of the Fish Welfare Fund.

“I spent 10 weeks putting together these figures - consulting almost 30 different fishery owners and club officials as part of my research - and I’m confident I can justify them to anyone,” said Angling Trust board member Mike.

When the Angling Times asked Defra for some assurances that it will do everything in its power to control the disease, they received the following statement:-

"As stated in the consultation document, Defra’s approach resonates with the aspirations of the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain, which sets out a number of guiding principles to animal health and welfare – in particular that prevention is better than cure. Defra works to secure a healthy environment in which we and future generations can prosper.  Key to this overall rationale are the relevant Public Sector Agreements (PSAs) which are key cross-Government priorities, and the appropriate Departments Strategic Objectives (DSOs).  Of relevance in the case of KHV is the PSA on “Secure a healthy natural environment for everyone’s well being, health and prosperity, now and in the future”."