THE Environment Agency has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in 2019 to tackle coarse fish diseases.

Three new DNA testing facilities have been installed by the EA fish health team at their Brampton Laboratory in Cambridgeshire.

They hope molecular testing will help stop carp edema virus and koi herpes virus.

Deadly spring viraemia of carp was thought to have been eradicated but a case cropped up in Warwickshire in 2017.

An EA spokesperson said: “Our new molecular labs will be used to test for viruses in fish samples we collect during mortality investigations, including KHV, SVC and CEV – three extremely damaging viral diseases affecting carp

“Molecular testing is a reliable and efficient way to detect all kinds of fish species, parasites and pathogens.

“These tests allow us to monitor all types of disease, from all fish species, at all fisheries. Very exciting stuff.”

How DNA testing of fish works

“The molecular testing allows us to extract DNA from fish tissues,” said the EA spokesperson.

“We take a pea-sized amount of fish tissue and break it up using tiny ceramic beads shaken at a very high speed. This releases DNA, including that of any viruses present,” they concluded.

The three diseases annually kill millions of pounds worth of prime carp in the UK with 26 cases of KHV alone in 2018, but none so far this year.

Independent fishery scientist Ian Wellby, of Blue Roof Ltd, said: “Diseases like KHV are here to stay and we are likely to get good years and bad years depending on the weather with worse cases when the temperatures are higher.

“However, the management practices of some fisheries owners who stock large numbers of carp into small spaces will continue to play the biggest part in the number of mortalities.

“But DNA testing will help identify diseases much quicker.”

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