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Fish Farms

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on the outbreak of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia at a fish farm on a tributary of the Ouse in Yorkshire; and what steps his Department is taking to prevent the spread of the disease; (78188)

(2) what plans his Department has to instigate the compulsory slaughter of diseased fish reared on fish farms;

(3) if his Department will compensate those fish farm owners who have their stock compulsorily slaughtered as a result of disease; and if he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 12 June 2006, Official Report, column 903W.

On 19 June, the National Control Centre of CEFAS, Weymouth Laboratory confirmed that viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) has been detected in a sample of grayling taken from the River Nidd below the outlet of the farm infected with the disease, although the infected fish showed no clinical signs of the disease. Further comprehensive sampling and testing is taking place on fish in the river, both below and above the infected farm.

Fish disease experts at CEFAS advise that although there is no scientific evidence that VHS virus infection causes significant outbreaks in wild freshwater fish stocks, any persisting infection in wild stocks could be a source of infection or re-infection for trout farms in the vicinity through VHS virus contamination of the river supply to the farm.

There are no plans at present to carry out compulsory slaughter of fish on farms in the areas of the River Ouse and River Don affected by the current outbreak but the matter will be kept under review. No further cases of VHS have been detected on fish farms.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the locations are of fish farms on which the presence of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia has been detected in the UK. (78189)

Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia was confirmed in rainbow trout at Nidderdale Trout Farm, Low Laithe, Summerbridge, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 4BU on 26 May 2006. No further cases of the disease have been detected so far at any other farm during a comprehensive sampling and testing programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the incidence and spread of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia among farmed fish populations. (78192)

Following the confirmation of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) in farmed rainbow trout on a fish farm in Yorkshire on 26 May 2006, my Department, through its Executive agency CEFAS, commissioned an epizootiological investigation into the source of the infection. This investigation includes the testing of farmed and wild fish populations which may have had contact with the infected stock, as well as all of the other potential pathways of disease transmission.

The Department has acknowledged the seriousness and potential impact of this most important disease on the UK aquaculture industry, and has previously funded research projects on epidemiology and mathematical modelling of disease outbreaks, the pathogenicity and transmission of different strains of the virus, and studies on the detection of the virus in fish and cell cultures.