Video gets the message out: we will catch fish smugglers
A video produced for the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI), based at Cefas, is helping to send out a strong message: if you’re a live fish smuggler, watch out!
The video, available from the Cefas website, highlights the damage that can be done to native fish stocks and pristine environments, when smuggled and/or diseased fish are let loose into UK waters.
It is illegal to import live coldwater fish unless they are from an EU “approved” zone and accompanied by a movement document issued by an authorised veterinary inspector.
A wide range of fish pathogens, exotic to the UK, could be easily transferred to UK rivers, ponds and lakes when diseased fish are released. Such diseases could threaten the UK’s currently high health status.
The fish disease of most concern to the FHI and the British angling community is spring viraemia of carp (SVC). Interceptions of previous illegal imports have identified this virus in fish destined for UK waters. After more than 20 years’ work by the FHI, the UK was declared free from this virus in 2010 – the first time since the disease was made notifiable in 1973.
Mike Heylin, Chairman of the Angling Trust, says: “If our carp stocks are wiped out because of disease, the High Street tackle shop will disappear, a lot of fisheries will disappear and a lot of clubs will close as there won’t be fish there to interest anglers anymore.”
The angling sector alone is estimated to be worth £3.9 billion a year.
Fish can grow to 40kgs or more on the Continent, due to the warmer climate. Such large fish can often be obtained illegally by speculative anglers or criminal gangs and sold at ten times their initial value. This means that smuggling fish into Great Britain has become a lucrative form of criminality.
Kevin Denham, Head of the FHI, says: “Using an intelligence-led approach and incorporating the skills and knowledge from other agencies such as the UK Border Agency, the Environment Agency and our equivalent departments on the other side of the Channel, we have been able to cast our net much wider to seek out the perpetrators of this environmental crime.”
The FHI is detecting those smuggling fish, and thus protecting British waters from diseases, through its partnership with the Crimestoppers charity. This collaboration has led to a network of responsible anglers anonymously reporting suspicious activity via the charity’s 0800 55 111 hotline.
Denham continues: “Such work is leading us to a point where the door to illegally imported fish is closed for good. Make no mistake: if you attempt to smuggle live fish, we will catch you and we will prosecute.”