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BIOSECURITY AND DISEASE PREVENTION IN THE ORNAMENTAL FISH INDUSTRY

D. Benjamin

 

The Fish Industry

Ø  Fish provide about 3 billion people with more than 20% of their total protein diet.

Ø  Aquaculture is by far the fastest growing sector of world food production.

Ø  Fish are the most rapidly increasing commodity produced and/or traded globally.

Ø  Fish exports from developing countries earn more for these countries than all the other commodities put together.

 

From a health standpoint, whether we like it or not, we in the Ornamental Fish Industry must see ourselves as part of the global effort to reduce the risk of the spread of pathogens that can endanger our future.

 

The Facts

Ø  Countless strains of viruses, some of which can mutate.

Ø  Scores of varieties of parasites that learn to reproduce effectively in differing conditions.

Ø  Hundreds of harmful bacteria that develop resistance to treatment.

Ø  Transfer of pathogens from farm to farm and country to country through broodstock or trade.

Ø  Increasing use of antibiotics resulting in reduced efficacy of treatments and dangerous side-effects.

Ø  The evolution of fish farming makes us increasingly vulnerable to new diseases.

Ø  Stricter legislation concerning Health Certificates that makes international trade in Ornamental Fish increasingly difficult.

 

The Challenges

Ø  Facilitating low cost disease control at production level.

Ø  Increasing the viability of regulations at supervisory level.

Ø  Facilitating efficient monitoring of imports at governmental level.

Ø  Dealing with the intensification of farming and increasing trade in fish

Ø  Preventing new health threats.

Ø  Movement from traditional open water "natural" farming to intensive controlled farming.

Ø  Increased use of regulated and enhanced breeding programs using limited genetic pools.

Ø  Reducing the threat of the emergence of as yet unknown pathogens.

 

In order to safeguard our industry and livelihood, we need to solve not only the problems we know and understand, but to prepare ourselves for future challenges.

 

 

The traditional solution

Medication.

 

The Question

Will the traditional solution solve the problem?

 

The Answer

No defence against existing or unknown future pathogens can be complete without first taking care of the basics!!

 

What do we do at home?

On a personal level we control disease by trying to keep a clean environment. We make sure to keep food fresh or in a refrigerator, we teach our children to wash their hands after using the toilet or before meals. We make sure the cooking utensils we use are clean etc.

 

What do we usually do at our fish facilities?

In our fish production we often fail to use preventative measures to sanitize equipment, containers or growing ponds, we do not always make sure new stock is from a disease free source and we sometimes ignore the risk of staff or visitors inadvertently bringing in new pathogens. Many of us rely mainly on medication instead of prevention.

 

The Basic Solution to disease prevention and control is BIOSECURITY

 

Unless the background challenge from disease causing organisms can be controlled, and good management practices strictly followed, medication alone is not capable of adequately protecting fish stocks.

 

Fish must be given an environment in which the level of infection is controlled to the point where medication can achieve beneficial effects. BIOSECURITY is the key to achieving this.

 

Why BIOSECURITY?

Ø  Holistic proactive approach as opposed to specific reaction.

Ø  Preparation for and prevention of the eventuality of new and/or developing pathogens.

Ø  The only long term solution to guarantee a supply of disease free fish.

Ø  If a pathogen is not present it cannot cause a disease or be transmitted.

Ø  If a pathogen is present it can be contained and/or eradicated before it spreads.

 

Implementing BIOSECURITY. (Examples)

Implementing BIOSECURITY does not mean making large investments. This means taking simple, logical steps to safeguard ourselves and our stocks from contamination. Steps that can be effective for the long term and that can be improved constantly.

The ways of implementation may differ greatly from one facility to another and what may be relevant for one facility may not be for another. Therefore it is beyond the scope of this article to present a format for the implementation of BIOSECURITY. The following are just a few general examples

Ø  New fish stocks should be brought in only from reliable sources and only after testing for pathogens.

Ø  All new fish arrivals should be quarantined – even those that have passed health inspections and tests.

Ø  Nets, equipment and tanks should be regularly sterilized between use and between breeding cycles.

Ø  Specific nets and equipment should be used for specific tanks (the same net should not be used for different tanks/fish).

Ø  Food stocks should be kept dry and at the appropriate temperature and should be used within the time-frame of the manufacturer’s shelf-life.

Ø  Staff and visitors to the facility should disinfect footwear and hands before entry.

 

Conclusion

BIOSECURITY should become a way of life for anyone in the livestock industry. This means that we should not only be “THINKING BIOSECURITY”, but we should also be “BEHAVING BIOSECURELY”.

 

Thinking BIOSECURITY means being constantly conscious of what we are doing and with whom and with what we and our fish stocks are interacting.

 

Behaving BIOSECURELY means acting responsibly to ensure a BIOSECURE environment and preparing ourselves against actual or potential threats.