By LOUISE THOMASON
Investigations into the source of the recent infectious salmon anaemia outbreak are to continue after a second case of the disease was confirmed on Friday at a fish farm off Scalloway.
The site to the east of the isle of Papa is owned by Hjaltland Seafarms and the cages are expected to be emptied of fish as soon as possible.
The farm is within the existing control zone set up when the first ISA case was confirmed early last month on a Scottish Sea Farms site close by at Hildasay.
Shetland Aquaculture general manager David Sandison said the new case was unfortunate: “It’s obviously disappointing that we’ve now got two confirmed cases and clearly there are implications. The result implies that it is contained to one area. It’s a big blow and a big financial blow to the company involved.
“The area involved has some fish, so while [they are] there the control measures remain the same. While fish are in the site there is always a danger it will spread.”
He added: “The immediate thing will be looking at the logistics of moving the fish and there are ongoing discussions as to how to do this. The law states the fish must be moved as soon as is practicably possible but the company will have to think about harvesting the fish and whether this is possible.”
In a statement, Hjaltland Seafarms managing director Michael Stark said the ISA virus had first been found on another company’s site and there was always a high risk that other farms within the control zone would have been infected.
He said: “We have seen so far no clinical signs of an ISA outbreak on the fish kept at the east of Papa site. We are confident that the ISAV has been contained in the Scalloway area as there have been no fish movements from this site since [smolts were introduced] in April 2008.
“The operators within the Scalloway area are working on finalising a comprehensive area management agreement.”
Fish health inspectors from Fisheries Research Services (FRS) have been working on the affected sites to try and determine the source of the disease.
Mr Sandison said this could take up to a year to find out.
There are various possibilities, he said, including the disease having been brought in to the area; that it is endemic in the environment and will become apparent if the fish are under stress; and that it was transmitted by wild fish. More tests would need to be done though as this was “all speculation”.
Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: “We are aware that no fish have been moved in or out of this site since April 2008 and remain confident that this virus outbreak is contained within the control and surveillance zone.
“The Scottish industry has a good, internationally recognised record in fish health and welfare and it is very important to us that we get back on track as quickly as possible.”
It remains to be seen whether government compensation is agreed for the companies whose operations have been badly affected by the virus and the strict controls imposed on farm operations.
Mr Sandison said companies would be affected for years to come and an economic impact survey would be carried out to try and assess the damage to fish farmers in the area.
He continued: “We’re very disappointed and very interested to try and find the source if we can. I’d just like to say to everyone in Shetland who is involved [in the industry] to redouble their efforts to be vigilant and try and spot any problem early on. We have to make sure everything is done right so that it can be eradicated.”