DAO 62:103-113 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao062103

Qualitative analysis of the risk of introducing Gyrodactylus salaris into the United Kingdom

E. J. Peeler*, M. A. Thrush

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Barrack Road, The Nothe, Weymouth DT4 8UB, UK

ABSTRACT: Gyrodactylus salaris is a freshwater, monogenean ectoparasite of Baltic strains of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar on which it generally causes no clinical disease. Infection of other strains of Atlantic salmon in Norway has resulted in high levels of juvenile salmon mortality and highly significant reductions in the population. The parasite is a major exotic disease threat to wild Atlantic salmon in the UK. This paper qualitatively assesses the risk of introduction and establishment of G. salaris into the UK. The current UK fish health regime prevents the importation of live salmonids from freshwater in territories that have not substantiated freedom from G. salaris. The importation of other species, e.g. eels Anguilla anguilla and non-salmonid fish, represents a low risk because the likelihood of infection is very low and the parasite can only survive on these hosts for less than 50 d. Importation of salmon carcasses presents a negligible risk because harvested fish originate from seawater sites and the parasite cannot survive full strength salinity. The importation of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss carcasses from G. salaris infected freshwater sites might introduce the parasite, but establishment is only likely if carcasses are processed on a salmonid farm in the UK. A number of mechanical transmission routes were considered (e.g. angling equipment, canoes, ballast water) and the most important was judged to be the movement of live fish transporters from farms on mainland Europe direct to UK fish farms. In the future, territories may have to substantiate freedom from G. salaris and economic drivers for live salmonid imports may strengthen. Under these circumstances, legal or illegal live salmonid imports would become the most significant risk of introduction.


KEY WORDS: Gyrodactylus salaris · Import risk analysis · Salmonid · Fish · Disease


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