Fish scientists link KHV spread to fishing landing nets and keepnets

Do you have a killer KHV net in your fishing net bag? That’s the question many anglers will be asking themselves this week following official ratification that the keepnets and landing nets used every weekend by fishermen are capable of transferring the carp-killing Koi Herpes Virus.

The groundbreaking discovery was made after scientists used net material to infect healthy fish with the virus, and the development looks certain to leave fisheries with little choice but to ban visiting anglers from using their own keepnets, landing nets and carp sacks.

The investigation by Cefas (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) scientists also proved that nets left in ‘stinkbags’ pose a risk by allowing the virus to survive out of water long enough to pose a risk when next used.

The news has rocked fishery bosses across the country, none more so than Chris Logsdon, owner of Mid Kent Fisheries.

“It’s very worrying. I don’t allow keepnets or sacks, but I can’t provide landing nets at all 30 of my lakes. Three lakes within 20 miles of me have been hit by KHV and my biggest concern is that an angler who has fished one visits one of my fisheries immediately after,” said Chris.

Fellow venue boss Sarah Thomson, who runs Barford Lakes near Norwich, believes many fishery chiefs will struggle to find the funds for the necessary precautions to be made.

“Does this mean that all fisheries will have to provide two nets for every visitor? The cost implications of that are shocking, not only with regard to buying the new equipment, but also paying people to make sure they’re being used,” said Sarah.

Prior to scientists proving the role played by nets in spreading KHV, it had previously been thought that the movement of live carp was the main factor in the killer disease’s rapid march across the nation’s fisheries. However, every fishery owner Angling Times spoke to while canvassing reaction to the news also believed that birds, such as gulls, cormorants and various wildfowl, were also able to transfer KHV from one water to another.

It’s an area Cefas is keen to investigate, as Health Inspectorate boss Kevin Denham explained.

“The question of whether birds can transfer the virus is certainly one we’ll take on board and look into. Previous studies have demonstrated that VHS (Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia) is capable of surviving through the gut of fish-eating birds. Closer study will be needed to see if the same is true of KHV, which is a far less robust disease,” said Kevin.