Disease research shows need to keep it clean

Roy WebsterFilthy fishermen who contain their catches in contaminated nets are responsible for spreading the highly-contagious Koi Herpes Virus that slaughters thousands of prime carp every year.Roy Webster

Filthy fishermen who contain their catches in contaminated nets are responsible for spreading the highly-contagious Koi Herpes Virus that slaughters thousands of prime carp every year.

This careless conduct, by match anglers especially, has always been suspected of spreading KHV from one venue to another. But now, those strong suspicions have become fact following intensive scientific experiments by the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

Cefas fishery experts have utilised infected mesh in their tests while reaching an indisputable conclusion that keepnets, landing nets and carp sacks that had not been doused in disinfectant solution and dried out in the open air were most definitely able to harbour the KHV organism that could survive in a damp, unclean keep net or in the so-call 'stink bag' until the angler's next visit to the water.

This shock news has left many fishery bosses in a quandary. Should they purchase an expensive stock of clean nets to be based at their fishery and used in every tournament or continue with what is regarded as an effective but less expensive policy of educating anglers to disinfect their own equipment after each visit to the water.

When contacted on this issue, the response from local fishery bosses was mixed, although there was serious concern expressed following the publication of the Cefas findings.

At the multi-lake Barford Fishery, manager Sarah Thomson, who constantly advocates a policy of 'keep it clean and tidy' on her fishery, said the great majority of match anglers now accepted that cleanliness was next to godliness when it came to protection measures against the deadly virus.

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'It would be ideal if we could supply enough clean keepnets and landing nets for every angler on our complex but this would be a huge financial burden leading to a rise in the cost of permits.

In the present economic climate this seems to be unacceptable so we shall continue with our existing policy of insisting that every keep net used on our waters should be washed, disinfected and dried out,' she declared.

At Cobbleacre, head bailiff Bob Anderson said he favoured the idea of providing keep nets and landing nets for every angler. 'We allow keepnets only for competitions but I would definitely support the idea of making available sterilized nets for our competitors. We shall continue to monitor the situation and encourage our anglers to accept the responsibility of decontaminating their own nets before they visit here,' he said.

Cross Drove fishery manager Rob Morter already provides keep nets and landing nets at every match peg around his lake.

'No angler can bring a net in here or take one away from competitions.

'The nets are hung in bags ready for use behind every angler's peg and, at the end of the day after the weigh in, they are returned to that position ready for use for the next event.

'I am keeping my fingers crossed that this system works for us. We have remained disease-free since we started it.'

Norwich and District Anglers chairman Tony Gibbons said the warning from Cefas had been noted but the only water under the Norwich control that could be subject to an infection of KHV was the Wensum Fisheries that contain carp.

'We do not allow keep nets for big fish and even on our rivers we urge all our members and competitors to maintain their nets in pristine condition by repeated disinfecting and drying out.

'In these enlightened times, anglers are far more aware of the risks of retaining fish in unclean nets, and I do not believe we have a problem at all on our waters,' he said.