FISH movement laws are being scrutinised after Angler’s Mail revealed huge catfish are being transferred without a single health check.

As Angler’s Mail revealed, big catfish are being moved by the Environment Agency and the Catfish Conservation Group – but no fish health checks are being done since the abolition of the Section 30 consent.

Viv Shears, owner of fish farm VS Fisheries, revealed he has to routinely kill dozens of healthy specimens for fish health checks.

Viv explained: “We operate under strict rules and regulations which involve regular fish health checks on our stocks in which 30 fish have to be destroyed and tested at a time.

“This is done every six months at each of the four sites where we raise fish, and additionally we have two inspections a year and have to keep accurate records of the number and weight of all fish transferred which we send to CEFAS.

“We are considered a Tier 1 operation which is low risk and other rules apply to Tier 2, higher risk, which applies to fish dealers and angling clubs,” Viv added.

Fish health reactions

Richard Clarke, secretary of the CCG, said: “When a catfish or any other species for that matter go to a fully enclosed fishery where there is no escape route with a permit to have that species, then there is no legal need for a health check.

“Catfish are not known to harbour any fish diseases although like all fish they can have parasites.

“The main one is gill maggots (ergasilus) which we would normally do a visual check for and if they are present we would only ask a fishery to have them if it is known that this parasite is already present there.

“If catfish needed to be removed from a fishery where a disease like koi herpes virus was known to be present, then they would need to be destroyed, as although, the disease doesn’t affect them, there would be a danger of spreading the virus in the transfer.

“The fisheries taking the catfish through us are fairly relaxed about the health risks and do so at their own risk, but we have never experienced any issues despite relocating many thousands,” Richard concluded.

River conservationist and Angler’s Mail columnist John Bailey says there are too many regulations.

John blasted: “In my view the fish movement regulations are really a nonsense.

“I wanted to transfer roach from stillwaters to rivers and was told I couldn’t because I might damage the river roach, but this could hardly happen when there are no roach in the river in the first place.

“In the old days, river boards used to be transferring fish all the time inevitably with excellent results, but then the fish scientists took over and now it makes stocking very difficult.

“Our rivers in East Anglia have subsequently gone into steep decline, especially for roach, under various threats like predation and water pollution and any re-stocking there has been is wholly inadequate.

“We are living in a world with too many rules and regulations and these certainly need a major rethink,” John concluded.

Environment Agency fish movement laws

  • Movements of live fish are controlled by the Keeping & Introduction of Fish Regulations 2015. These replaced Section 30 of the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975
  • EA issues permits to fishery owners that specify which species they can legally introduce into their fishery, and what conditions need to be met including health checks. Where they do not require a “mandatory” health check, such as in a fully enclosed stillwater with no conservation status, the fish are introduced at the owners risk.
  • In the case of non-native species, the permits state whether they are allowed to be kept, or if known specimens need to be removed from the fishery.
  • It is an offence to keep species like wels catfish without the appropriate permit.
  • The maximum fine for conviction under the Keeping & Introduction of Fish Regulations 2015 is £50,000.

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