Fish welfare depends on fish health


<p>The health of fish is affected by a number of factors, such as fish diseases and changes in the environment. The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira studies and monitors the health of both farmed and wild fish. Fish diseases rarely present a risk to human health.</p>

Evira and the Finnish Fish Farmers’ Association organise an annual conference on fish health and other industry issues, Kalaterveys- ja yrittäjäpäivät. This year, the conference will take place in Jyväskylä on March 14 and 15. In their keynotes, Evira’s specialists will address the outbreaks of new diseases hampering fish farming.

Evira taking an active role
Evira’s fish research focuses on the analysis of laboratory samples and studies of fish diseases. Evira is responsible for monitoring fish welfare, and disseminating information on food hygiene for the industry.

Providing up-to-date information on infectious fish diseases
The current threats from infectious diseases include the infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) and the salmonid alphavirus (SAV). Neither of these has been found in Finland. ISA can become widespread through water, fish, fish waste and human activity. In Finland, ISA requires control measures under the Finnish Animal Diseases Act (eläintautilaki 55/1980) and is classified as a highly contagious disease.

As there is no treatment for SAV, avoiding infection is the only method of preventing the losses caused by this disease. Diseases caused by the SAV viruses are also monitored under the Animal Disease Act and are classified as controlled diseases.

Evira’s report on infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) clarifies the implications of the virus, detected in Finland’s inland waters during the previous year, to fish farming. Mortality in salmonoid fry, such as trout, rainbow trout and salmon, varies according to the IPN virus strain, fish species, fish age, and fish immune functions. The virus strain detected in Finland’s inland waters has not been found to cause high mortality rates.

The conference will also discuss the prevention of flavobacteria-causing diseases in farmed fish. Vaccination of fish against the bacterial infection is highly recommended as one of the best prevention methods.

Feeding and foods affecting fish health
The effects of feeding and fish food on the health of fish are many, even though finding proof of a causal link between a foodstuff and the problems it has been suspected of causing remains difficult after the event has occurred. For example, fish food was suspected of causing an outbreak of constipation in rainbow trout fish fry in 2013.

Reforming the guidance for controlling fish products
Evira’s new guidance for the control, food hygiene, and product safety of fish products will be introduced at the conference. The guidance is targeted at the controlling authorities but it also provides useful information for the industry. In addition, the guidance explains the requirements for fishing products with relevance to primary production, processing, and retail. The key requirements related to fish farming include the sensory quality control of fish, storage and transport temperatures, safety of water and ice during refrigeration, and packaging labelling.

Remembering to maintain good hygiene in the kitchen
Safe cooking is based on good hygiene in the kitchen. Meals containing raw or undercooked burbot, pike, perch, and ruff may expose humans to fish tapeworm. Boiling and frying are safe methods of preparing fish.

More information on good kitchen hygiene
More information on the Finnish Fish Farmers’ Association

For information on fish diseases
Perttu Koski, PhD, Senior Researcher, Head of Section, Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit, tel. +358 40 569 4541.

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