Skip to main content

Gyrodactylus Salaris

Volume 458: debated on Wednesday 28 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what measures he is taking to keep rivers safe from Gyrodactylus salaris; and if he will make a statement; (128905)

(2) what his contingency plans are for dealing with an outbreak of Gyrodactylus salaris; what risk assessment he has made of Gyrodactylus salaris entering into the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs) is a parasite that has the potential to cause widespread losses in both wild and farmed Atlantic salmon. The disease Gyrodactylosis, caused by the parasite, is subject to the notification requirements and control arrangements of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 (as amended).

The UK is free of Gs and we are doing all we can to ensure that remains the case. In March 2004, following intensive discussion in the EU, we succeeded in re-negotiating robust additional fish health guarantees to safeguard against the introduction of Gs through trade in live fish (Commission Decision 2004/453). The guarantees, in effect, allow movement of live fish of susceptible species only from areas that are considered free of the parasite.

The revised additional guarantees were agreed only after they had been scrutinised by leading UK fish health scientists and assessed by them as posing a negligible risk of introducing Gs into the UK. Subsequently, the EU Permanent Advisory Network for Disease in Aquaculture, made up of international fish health scientists, also considered the measures and came to the same conclusion.

DEFRA has contingency plans in place which have been drafted in close consultation with the Environment Agency, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and other interested parties. In the event of identification of Gs in either farmed or wild freshwater fish stocks, the objective would be to contain and, if possible, eradicate the parasite. Officials are also in regular contact with their counterparts in other Departments and the devolved Administrations about contingency planning.

My Department has also carried out publicity campaigns to raise awareness among the general public (especially those involved in angling) about the dangers of introducing Gs and other diseases through travel to and from high-risk areas. A further campaign is being considered for the near future. Advice on how to keep Gs out of the country is contained in our “Keep Fish Diseases Out” series of guidance leaflets.