FAO/GFCM Workshop on animal health and risk analysis in finfish aquaculture

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By Milthon Lujan

By Diego Lozano*
General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) established within the FAO with main objective to ensure the conservation and the sustainable use, at the biological, social, economic and environmental level, of living marine resources and the sustainable development of aquaculture in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea organized the Workshop on animal health and risk analysis in finfish aquaculture.

The workshop was held in Larnaca, Cyprus on 3-4 October 2018 and it gathered participants from more than 20 countries from the GFCM area. The main topic of the workshop was to assess the current situation regarding early diagnostics in fish farms, regulation, capacity in diagnostics, control and prevention of diseases, epidemiological knowledge, governance and challenges for aquatic animal health.

Based on the template distributed to the participants at the beginning of September entitled “Aquaculture and aquatic diseases surveillance”, tailored statuses from 13 GFCM member countries, namely Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Romania, Tunisia and Ukraine were presented.

All EU members have surveillance programs for detection and control of diseases listed in the EU legislation (Council Directive 2006/88/EC) while there are no programs for control of diseases in marine farmed fish. Diagnostic capacities are in line with requirements of EU legislation and almost all diagnostic procedures are accredited according to ISO EN 17025. Moreover, all these countries have the systems for notifying the abnormal mortalities, diseases and mortalities outbreaks in force. EU countries have very well developed diagnostic capacities, vaccination is largely common method of prevention of bacterial diseases, and it should be highlighted that France has objective to reduce antimicrobial use by 25% in next three years. Also, most of big marine aquaculture farms are following the rules set up by GLOBAL GAP and they are obliged to adopt a contingency plans with described procedure in case of abnormal mortalities. The main constraint are human resources limits, insufficient education of fish health experts, there is no certification for this expertise, lack of registered medicine for treatment of fish, mainly antiparasitic drugs, insufficient control of ornamental fish health status as it is know that they are one of the most traded commodities. All countries are exporting and importing eggs and fry and there is a concern about their health status.

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Non EU countries showed a different level of control, surveillance, scopes and capacities in aquatic diseases control and surveillance; while Morocco strategically develops the marine fish production besides established molluscs cultivation and expresses the willingness to cooperate with all interested parties, Tunisie has very well developed marine fish production with high prevalence of sea bream and sea bass. The diagnostics capacities seem quite developed in some segments but they should be also improved. There is no national list of the most important pathogens and the control is driven by needs of industry. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt has huge aquaculture production, mainly in fresh water, but marine finfish production is quite high with the biggest percentage of mullets, followed by sea bass and sea bream. The diagnostics capacities are mostly connected to universities, vet schools and increasing number of teaching of aquatic animals diseases within veterinary schools is advantage. There are many experts educated in different countries like USA, UK, Japan, Italy, France etc. Surveillance and diagnostics of diseases are mainly performed by university teachers and based on the research projects. There are no diagnostic capacities for fish viral diseases. The regional training of the experts is a need.

It was concluded that challenges related to aquatic animal health and welfare in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea aquaculture should be regional in scope, as any impact at the local lever would bear consequences at all levels from local to regional due to the physically continuous nature.

The participants acquired the basic knowledge about the risk analysis in aquaculture, risk analysis methodologies and challenges, national actions on biosecurity and National strategy on aquatic animals health through educative presentation of the FAO officer, Dr. Melba Bondad Reantaso.

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In the second part of the meeting three H2020 projects, namely VIVALDI (Preventing and Mitigating Farmed Bivalve Diseases) and MedAID (Mediterranean Aquaculture Integrated Development) were presented by Dolors Furones, IRTA, Spain and PerformFISH (Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain) was presented by Andrea Gustinelli, University of Bologna, Italy.

Moreover, several particular activities pertaining the scope of the workshop like the results obtained within MedAID’s Work package 1. Holistic sustainability assessment of Mediterranean aquaculture: zootechnical, environmental, economic, social and governance; Task 1.4. Mapping knowledge on the prevalence of diseases and their impact on production were demonstrated by Dolors Furones, scientific coordinator of the project. Saraya Tavornapanich, task leader of the WP 4. Health management and diseases and welfare, Task 4.1. Assess the risk of relevant pathogens and emerging diseases in the Mediterranean basin explained the methodology that will be applied for the “Development of a generic model for assessing the risk of introduction and spread of viral diseases within marine farms in the Mediterranean basin” while Snježana Zrnčić presented the activities of the WP 4., Task 4.2. Strengthening diagnostics capacities by harmonizing competences and invited all participant of the meeting to actively involve in the evaluation of the diagnostic competences and defining the needs within the region and into work of the Health online forum.

The meeting raised a good opportunity to spread the possibility of networking and dissemination of the on going projects’ results.

However, all countries regardless the governmental involvement in aquatic health management and diagnostic and research capacities should make a step forward to prevention in aquaculture which will be possible to develop by fulfilling the outcomes of the projects but also acquiring a new approach. A FAO (Melba Bondad Reantaso) introduced a new concept to address aquatic disease problems – Aquaculture Biosecurity Progressive Management Pathway (PMP). The PMP is a step-wise risk management framework that should introduce the building blocks for biosecurity capacity that are relevant to national needs at every stage.

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*Source: medAID

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