ECHO and imported fish
Whilst ECHO openly admits that many of our history
fish were imported as small fingerlings many years ago, it is the
recent importation of carp and other coarse fish from across Europe
is one that is of great concern. Times have changed and we now have
more knowledge of the potential risks involved with the movement
of carp and coarse fish into the UK, whether legally or illegally
illegal importation of carp and other coarse fish is of greatest
concern to ECHO for many reasons. Firstly the fish have undergone
NO health checks or documentation whatsoever prior to being introduced
to UK waters. Illegal imports pose a significant threat of serious
fish disease outbreaks, which could threaten the future of angling,
the livelihoods of many fishery and fish owners, the livelihoods
of angling associated businesses, and the destruction of millions
of our native fish. This disease threat not only puts the recipient
fishery and its fish stocks at risk from the diseases that may be
introduced with the illegal fish but all those other fisheries that
are in the same river catchment area or flood plain. Many of the
major disease threats to our native stocks are covered elsewhere
on the site.
The illegal fish are likely to have been transported
in poor conditions causing extreme levels of stress and may even
lead to the death of high numbers of the fish whilst in transit
from Europe. This traumatic movement, and subsequent damage to the
fish, may also leave them vulnerable to diseases or parasites that
they are exposed to once introduced into the water in the UK.
Once in UK waters the illegal fish are often introduced
into fisheries that are to small to enable the fish to maintain
their natural weight and to allow natural healthy growth. This is
due to the fact that these fish are often originally from large
and extremely rich environments commonly found in Europe. Often
these illegal imports lose condition and have a relatively short
life span once introduced to UK fisheries due to the poor environment
and extreme angling pressure they are exposed too. Once these fish
have died the fishery owner often acquires further illegal fish
from abroad to keep their membership full thus restarting the threat
of serious disease introduction into the UK.
The fact that these illegal fish are often stolen
from European angling waters means that the Europeans are now having
to go further afield to obtain fish legally to replace those that
are lost. Specific areas of Europe have certain types of diseases
that are endemic and the movement of fish from country to country
within Europe poses a great threat to the nieve fish that have not
been exposed to these new diseases and this may lead to huge fish
mortalities across Europe.
Due to the regulations of free trade it is impossible
to consider the total banning of all imports of fish into the UK
and ECHO has never tried to do so. What ECHO considers to be vital
is the implementation of more rigorous legislation regarding the
importation of all fish into the UK.
Legitimate fish must undergo a health check to
some extent but often these can be fabricated so diseased fish may
be imported legally. Only Spring Viraemia of Carp (SVC) is routinely
inspected for at the original source of the fish. Many other potentially
devastating diseases are not checked for at all and it is this area
that ECHO feels needs further legislation being brought into law.
Often "additional" and non-health checked
species of fish may be shipped with the documented legal fish as
a means of making extra profit for the importer. Many cases of this
have been seen in recent years where carp and other coarse fish
have been added to a legal consignment of ornamental fish.
More rigorous investigation of all legal consignments of fish, whether
coarse or ornamental, is essential to prevent this but is only achievable
with additional revenue being made available to CEFAS who are responsible
for inspecting such shipments.
Ornamental fish imports are also a direct threat
to our native stocks due to such diseases as Koi Herpes Virus (KHV)
which, if introduced to UK fisheries, could have a huge potential
to cause widespread fish mortalities. Again further screening for such diseases is essential in an attempt to protect our native stocks especially now that KHV has been discovered in UK fisheries.
An area of exploration ECHO is pursing is the possibility
of size limitations on the coarse fish that are allowed to be legally
imported into the UK. This is due to the fact that many large carp
imported legally are often fish that have been acquired from a different
water to that of fish in the main shipment from the fish farm that
have been health certificated. These big fish are simply added to
the shipment prior to transportation and claimed to have been reared
on the farm site. This again poses a huge threat to our native stocks
by introducing a novel disease to the UK fishery. It is ECHOs understanding
that very few, if any, recognised and health certified European
fish farms grow fish in excess of 35lbs so fish above this size
legally imported are often of dubious origin and not from the approved
sites required by CEFAS.
ECHO and fish movements within the
Whilst not one of ECHO's primary objectives this is an area which
must be investigated further and more thoroughly. Any illegal internal
movement of coarse fish within the UK has the potential to cause
disease outbreaks, especially Spring Carp Mortality Syndrome outbreaks,
along with the potential of introducing novel parasites to a water
that has never been exposed too such. An area of concern to ECHO
is the introduction of ornamental species into coarse fisheries
due to the threat posed to our native stocks by KHV. In addition
to this is the illegal theft of carp from fisheries, which again
means the fish are moved without consent and are not health checked
prior to being introduced.
Recently the Environment Agency, who are responsible for consenting
and auditing fish movements within England and Wales, have created
a new 'Fisheries Enforcement' Team that will specifically investigate
internal fish movements. ECHO will be assisting this team in any
manner possible with regards to illegal fish movements by acting
as a point of contact where details of suspicious movements or potential
fish thefts can be passed onto the EA.
As you can see their are many issues and threats that the sport we know and love faces. From what you have just read hopefully you can now see the reason why ECHO is here and hopefully you will now lend your weight to the cause.