As we reported earlier this week, following Mowi's warning of suspected pancreas disease (PD) at two of its fish farms in Norway, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) announced that it would take verification samples to send to the Veterinary Institute for analysis. Now, the Authority has confirmed that the diagnosis of PD has been confirmed and has informed the company that it will be required "to quickly empty the facilities to reduce the risk of further spread of the infection."
"The Norwegian Food Safety Authority takes the PD confirmation seriously," said Geir Arne Ystmark, regional director in Mattilsynet's Northern Region. "It is a highly contagious salmon disease that leads to poor health and welfare for the fish and significant losses for the industry," he added.
As mentioned, it was Mowi itself that notified the authorities of the suspected pancreas disease, after laboratory test results came back positive for PD at two of its fish farms at locations 10447 Mefaldskjæret and 31857 Blomsøråsa in the municipality of Alstahaug, in Nordland County, Norway. Both are in the protection zone established following the detection of the PD outbreak at location 45003 Ystøya, also in Alstahaug municipality, in September this year.
Although pancreas disease does not affect human health, and salmon is safe to eat, PD is a viral disease that leads to poor fish health and welfare. Fish stop eating, growth decreases and mortality can be high. Fish also become more susceptible to other diseases, and that is why the Norwegian Food Safety Authority stresses that the area north of the PD zone, i.e. north of Skjemta, Flatanger in Trøndelag, must be kept free of pancreatic disease.
"To limit the spread of the infection, we will impose rapid emptying of the facilities," claimed Geir Arne Ystmark. Although the Authority has not reported the exact number, more than 9,000 tons of fish could be affected by the measure since, according to Barentswatch data, Mefaldskjæret has a capacity of 6,240 tons, while that of Blomsøråsa is 3,120 tons.
Moreover, Mattilsynet also recalled that all persons in the area or engaged in activities related to fish farming should act with the necessary caution to reduce the risk of spreading the disease, and again stressed the importance of assessing the infection situation in the area as quickly as possible.
Likewise, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority said that according to the regulations, this assessment must be carried out through extended sampling that the fish farmers themselves must carry out within seven days at all facilities located within a 30-kilometer radius of the confirmed PD sites.
However, although this 30-kilometer radius is the usual restriction zone, Mattilsynet has said that it will soon evaluate whether it is necessary to extend the existing restriction zone. "Local adjustments such as the number of facilities in the area, distance relationships, and flow conditions, etc., will be the basis for the extent of the restriction zone," the Authority said.