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Fish disease found in Midlands.

A deadly freshwater fish disease has been identified in seven rivers - including a Midland stretch - across England, the Environment Agency said.

Antibodies to tench rhabdovirus were detected, indicating that the fish have been exposed to the disease during their lifetimes.

This virus was previously believed not to be widespread in the wild, having only been found twice in England and Wales, in farmed fish.

In 1999, the virus killed fish in five waters which had all been supplied with bream from a single source in Northern Ireland, and in 2004 it was found at the Agency's Calverton Fish Farm.

Both Calverton and Leyland Fish Farm, another agency farm which may have been affected, were cleared and disinfected as a precaution.

During the re-stocking of the farms, the agency tested fish for exposure to tench rhabdovirus from rivers and stillwaters before using them as broodstock.

Positive results were found at the River Trent, Nottinghamshire, River Teme in Worcestershire, River Nidd, Yorkshire, River Wharfe, Yorkshire, River Witham, Lincolnshire, River Douglas, Lancashire, and River Wye in Derbyshire.

Nigel Hewlett, EA senior fish health scientist, said: 'We do not know how serious these latest findings are.

'They do suggest that the virus may be more widespread than we originally thought, but, as it does not appear to have caused any fish mortalities in the wild since 1999, it may not prove to be a serious risk to fish populations.'

Dafydd Evans, EA head of fisheries, added: 'All these rivers are extremely valuable and popular fisheries, and we have no evidence that the virus has had an impact.

'More work on the disease is needed, however, and we will be working closely with CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) to get a better understanding of its distribution, what impact it can have on wild fish stocks and what risk this poses to fisheries
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 26, 2005
Words:310
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