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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Reportable Diseases and Regulatory Concerns in Aquaculture

By Roy P. E. Yanong, VMD, Associate Professor and Extension Veterinarian, Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida ; Ruth Francis-Floyd, DVM, MS, DACZM, Professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida

With increased regulation of ornamental and aquacultured fish in the USA, there are additional needs for professional veterinary services, including USDA health certification (see below) for movement of animals. Implementation of the NAAHP should more clearly define the role of veterinary practitioners in the future. USDA-APHIS provides voluntary training to practitioners who wish to work in this area and is developing a special aquatic certificate for accredited veterinarians. Information on federal regulations pertaining to fish medicine is available at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/aquaculture/ct_aquaculture_index. State law may be more restrictive than federal law, and there is significant variation in state regulations regarding importation of aquatic animals. The State Veterinarian or State Animal Health Officer is the ultimate resource for information on state animal health regulations.

Currently, USDA-APHIS has adopted (the reportable disease list of the OIE) as reportable in the USA (see Table: Fish Diseases of Regulatory Concern in the USA). If a USDA-APHIS reportable disease is suspected, appropriate samples should be collected as per the OIE Aquatic Manual. Practitioners should stay informed of changes in the status of diseases of regulatory concern, because they are liable if they have a case that is not reported. Regulated fish diseases of greatest concern to aquatic animal veterinarians in the USA include koi herpesvirus, spring viremia of carp, and viral hemorrhagic septicemia. Notification of reportable aquatic diseases should be made directly to the State Veterinarian and to the USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge.

Health Certification:

A major role of the aquaculture veterinarian is health certification of many animals leaving a facility. Movement of animals may be intrastate, interstate, or international. Specific testing and general health requirements for aquaculture exports vary according to region, state, country, and species. In some instances, only a visual inspection is required, whereas in others statistically determined sample sizes and more standardized diagnostic methods are necessary. Level of required oversight also varies. Some countries require only evaluation and signature by a licensed veterinarian, whereas others require the oversight and acknowledgement of the national competent authority. USDA-APHIS is the competent authority for commercial aquaculture in the USA and provides information on specific import/export requirements by country (www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/ourfocus/importexport). For importing countries requiring USDA-APHIS oversight, veterinarians must be licensed to practice in the USA and obtain veterinary accreditation (Category 2 accreditation is required for aquaculture) through USDA-APHIS for evaluation of aquaculture species. USDA-APHIS is also tasked to protect aquaculture in the USA from foreign disease introduction. For facilities within the USA that import fish, USDA-APHIS determines health requirements for incoming shipments, with fish, crustacean, molluscan, and amphibian diseases of concern listed by the OIE currently considered reportable by USDA-APHIS; however, not all of these are program diseases with specific actions required for positive cases.