Best Health Practices Certification Program to help Koi Dealers

Published on March 13, 2009


Koi herpesvirus (KHV) probably appeared in Europe in the mid 1990s. However, mass mortalities in Israel in May of 1998 and later in the US brought the disease world-wide attention. Since then it has spread to virtually every country in the world where koi and carp are raised, except Australia.

In 2004 and in response to this growing threat, the AKCA formed Project KHV (the “Project”). Its mission was to solicit charitable contributions to help foster short-term control and long-term eradication of the disease. The best hope for long-term eradication seemed to lie with a vaccine. However it soon became apparent that the amount of money required to effectively bring a vaccine to market was well beyond the capabilities of Project KHV. That, combined with the fact that at least six other and better-funded groups were already pursuing vaccines, lead Project KHV’s Steering Committee (the “Committee”) to switch its focus to other important, but much less well-funded, aspects of KHV, specifically KHV education and research aimed at better understanding the virus.

Within AKCA and from as far back as 2002, the concept of a Dealer Certification program was contemplated. The idea took multiple forms and experienced several false starts over the years. It eventually evolved into an official undertaking for Project KHV and in March of 2006 the Project issued an RFP (request for proposal) for a Koi Dealer Certification program. In response to the RFP, the Project received two proposals. Unfortunately both proposals seemed seriously flawed. In an effort to determine if the Committee’s anxieties about one of the proposal were well founded, a market research project was undertaken. That market research confirmed the Committee’s suspicions about the program’s needs and this lead to a rewrite and re-issuance of the RFP. However and unfortunately, accommodation with the leading proposal group was not possible and they withdrew their proposal. And, it became apparent that obtaining other proposals was unlikely.

Instead of further delaying the project, Project KHV assumed both the sponsorship and management of the project and organized a skilled group of animal health professionals to draft the design and write a Koi Dealer Best Health Practices Certification Program (“BHP”) document.

Today, there is a clear idea of what the BHP program will be and it remains essentially unchanged from the description that was used to describe the BPH program in the market research:

The project under consideration is one where a team of well qualified veterinarians and other professionals will develop a program under which dealerships may be certified to be operating under best health practices as they relate to koi herpesvirus. Facilities will only be certified by licensed veterinarians who will function as competent, independent third-party inspection authorities. Those veterinarians are also anticipated to assist the dealers in configuring their facilities and establishing the necessary procedures that will allow the veterinarian to certify the facility as compliant with the program’s requirements. The certifying veterinarians will receive regular reports from the dealers and will perform on-site inspections sufficient to judge the suitability of continued certification.

The market research surveyed 53 koi dealerships (“Dealers”) and 21 veterinarians (“Vets”) that include fish in their practice. The research found that 75% f the dealers and all vets surveyed indicated they liked and were willing to support the proposed program. The specific likes, dislikes and suggestions for improvements from both Dealers and Vets were also noted and used to provide guidance for the current BHP authors.

Currently the authors have completed the six core sections, the Essential Requirements. Additionally, a legal review of critical documents has been completed by a well-qualified, dual degreed veterinary lawyer who teaches veterinary law at over 17 veterinary colleges. A prototype online course for veterinarians seeking to become Certifying Vets was completed and tested with a group of 10 veterinarians.

The BHP is currently finishing a phase where the as-written Essential Requirements were “reality challenged” by eight Vets pursuing implementation at a dozen Dealers throughout the country.

Anticipated dates for the major milestones remaining in the Program are:

Completion of Beta testing – January 2008

National release of the BHP program – Second quarter of 2009

Project KHV’s complete withdrawal from the Program – Early 2011

The following steps are planned to achieve these goals:

• Revise BHP documents as suggested by the “reality testing” feedback

• Revise online vet training course

• Plan, sponsor and implement an initial marketing campaign – web site included

• Establish self-sustaining mechanisms for Program including self-regulation and conflict resolution

• Offer materials free of charge to any vets who agree to certify only dealers that comply with the BHP Essential Requirements

• Build a successful history with the Program

• Solicit endorsements from relevant organizations, e.g. AVMA, IAAAM

Project KHV’s ultimate goal is to have the BHP successfully implemented nation-wide in a manner that is self-regulating and self-sustaining. Provisions for updates and revisions are expected to be built-in to the self-sustaining aspects of the program.

We believe that this Program will be the basis for participating Dealers to be well positioned to deliver cleaner, healthier fish to hobbyists. Since hobbyists will have no difficulty seeing the benefits of this, it is expected that hobbyists will encourage their Dealers to participate.

For more information, see:

The team of authors for the BHP includes

(in alphabetical order)

Jerry Heidel, DVM, PhD, DACVP

Director, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

College of Veterinary Medicine

Oregon State University

Tim Miller-Morgan, DVM

Extension Veterinarian/Assistant Professor – Aquatic Pets

Ornamental Fish Health Program

Sea Grant Extension

College of Veterinary Medicine

Oregon State University

Denise Petty, DVM

Aquaculture Extension Veterinarian

Large Animal Clinical Sciences

College of Veterinary Medicine, and

Dept. of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

University of Florida

Allen Riggs, DVM, MS

Aquaculture Veterinarian

State of Hawaii Aquaculture Development Program

Hawaii Department of Agriculture

Richard Strange, PhD


Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries

University of Tennessee

About the Author

Spike Cover is a mechanical engineer by education and training but, by his own admission, he is a life long “fish geek” who is self-taught in koi health. He is currently the Director of both the AKCA’s Koi Health Advisor program and Project KHV. He may be reached in Southern California at 949-855-2371 (9a.m. to 9p.m.).

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