Imports of gutted salmon to be permitted from Australia

23 March 2000

The importation of gutted salmon with its head and gills intact will be permitted from Australia, subject to the development of an Import Health Standard, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced today.

The decision is based on a scientific evaluation of the potential health risks to fish and other aquatic animals from such products being allowed to enter New Zealand. The risk analysis was carried out by the MAF Biosecurity Authority, and was released for public comment in September last year. The analysis was supplementary to the previous two carried out in 1994 and 1997.

A review of the submissions received in response to the supplementary import risk analysis will be published today. The review of submissions concluded that no new evidence had been presented which would change the conclusions reached in the supplementary risk analysis.

The Biosecurity Act 1993 requires that when considering the importation of goods that might cause unwanted harm to animal health, MAF must consider the likelihood of the organisms being introduced, and the possible effects such organisms might have on people, the environment and the New Zealand economy.

The supplementary risk analysis considered only those diseases of salmonids which are present in Australia, and which have not been recorded in New Zealand. These are atypical strains of Aeromonas salmonicida, lymphosarcomas in Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, streptococcosis, and epizootic haematopoetic necrosis virus (EHNV). The risk analysis assessed each of these diseases, and concluded for the first three that the risk of introduction posed by head and gill intact salmonids for human consumption was low or negligible. However, specific measures were recommended to protect against the introduction of EHNV.

MAF received 12 submissions on the supplementary risk analysis, the content of which is summarised in the review published today. As a result of questions raised in submissions regarding streptococcosis, MAF sought further expert opinion which is also summarised in the document.

MAF concludes that none of the points raised in submissions affect the validity of the conclusions reached in the supplementary analysis, or the risk analyses that had preceded it.

While MAF will be permitting the importation of head and gills intact salmon from Australia, MAF will not be permitting the commercial importation of trout.

The Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton will advise his Australian counterpart of the decision this morning in Canberra.

New Zealand's international agreements, such as CER and membership in the World Trade Organisation, oblige MAF to base decisions affecting imports on a scientific basis. Continued refusal to allow imports from Australia would have been difficult to defend on technical grounds, especially as the international standard for safe trade in table fish, the International Aquatic Animal Health Code, considers that evisceration ensures that fish may be traded safely.

For further information contact:

Matthew Stone, National Adviser, International Animal Trade, Biosecurity Authority, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Telephone 04 498 9884

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