Good fisheries management is the best way to prevent and control fish disease

Fishery managers and angling clubs can protect their waters from disease outbreaks by practising good fisheries management.  That is the message from a workshop on fish disease and fisheries management held on 29th March at the Environment Agency's National Fisheries Laboratory at Brampton, Huntingdon, in Cambridgeshire.

Speakers from all sections of the fisheries industry highlighted how fishery managers can greatly reduce the risk of disease problems on the fisheries they look after. They also gave a clear message about how all of the groups involved in fisheries in England and Wales can work together to reduce the damage fish disease causes.

“We know most coarse fish disease outbreaks are caused by a combination of too many fish, poor environment or recent stocking.  The good news is that these are all things that fishery managers can control,” explained Environment Agency technical advisor on fish health Nigel Hewlett.

“This workshop is the first step in making sure fishery managers know the risks they face and that they can work to prevent disease outbreaks.  We have a lot of work to do on this, but preventing fish disease outbreaks will save fish, reduce restocking costs and help protect the future of angling.”

The event was jointly organised by the Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust (FACT) and the Environment Agency.  It brought together commercial and specialist fishery managers, fisheries consultants, the fish supply trade, the Institute of Fisheries Management and government bodies to discuss the role fisheries management can play in preventing and controlling disease problems.

The speakers included Mike Heylin (Fisheries and Angling Conservation Trust), Nigel Hewlett (Environment Agency), Roy Marlow (Professional Coarse Fisheries Association), Viv Shears (Sparsholt College Fisheries Study Centre), Ash Girdler (Institute of Fisheries Management), Ian Welby (Coarse Fish Farmers and Traders Association) and Eric Hudson (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science).

“Although the Koi Herpesvirus outbreaks last year were devastating for many fisheries, it has meant angling groups, fish suppliers and government agencies are now more focussed on the issue of disease prevention and control and understand more fully the importance of working together,” said Mike Heylin.

“This has also given us a fantastic opportunity to work to prevent other disease problems we know about now and those that may appear in the future.

“The economic costs of failing to implement adequate controls on disease in our fisheries are massive. Coarse angling is worth £2.5 billion a year. No one can improve our fisheries but fisheries managers. We owe that care to today's anglers and the future generations who will want to fish in England and Wales.”

Each year more than 100 fish incidents of fish kills caused by disease occur in fisheries.  Many of these can be prevented and it's fishery managers who hold the key.  By taking professional advice and applying it to their fisheries they can tackle the threat of fish disease.

“Most fish mortalities are preventable. Last year's outbreak of KHV highlighted the damage fish disease can do to fisheries. Although KHV grabbed the headlines, it remains the cause of only a small number of the fish disease outbreaks the Environment Agency investigates each year. Over the past three years around 270 other fish disease outbreaks have caused the loss of at least £1.5 million worth of fish,” continued Nigel Hewlett.

“We know most cases could have been prevented by simple fisheries management actions. Even with deadly viruses such as KHV the way you manage your fishery can greatly reduce the potential losses; thus saving fish, cutting lost day ticket sales and protecting the reputation of your fisheries and angling.”

The Environment Agency has issued some simple guidance explaining how fisheries owners and anglers can prevent the spread of disease and protect their fisheries. Visit The Institute of Fisheries Management has also produced a booklet on the Management of Intensively Stocked Stillwater Coarse Fisheries.  For a free copy of this booklet e-mail your name and address to