International and national and biosecurity strategies in aquatic animal health

Birgit Oidtmann, M.A. Thrush, K.L. Denham, E.J. Peeler


With a growing global human population and an increasing demand for food protein, aquatic animal protein has become an increasingly important resource. In several geographic areas, wild stocks have been severely overfished, increasing the demands on aquaculture. In response, aquaculture production has dramatically risen over the last 30 years. Movement of live aquatic animals, within and between countries, for aquaculture and the ornamental trade, are important routes of disease spread. Over the last several decades, many aquatic animal diseases have emerged to have a substantial economic impact on aquaculture, sometimes with ecological consequences.

Effective biosecurity strategies provide protection to both farmed and wild aquatic animal populations by minimising the risk of introducing pathogens and minimising the consequences if the pathogen was introduced.

The term biosecurity has been variously defined on numerous occasions depending on the context in which it is used (e.g. bioterrorism, agriculture). However, in general, biosecurity involves practices, procedures and policies that are used to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens and invasive species. Biosecurity strategies can be applied at farm, regional, country, supranational and international level.

At international level, the main reference organisation for the development of measures relating to international trade in animals and animal products is the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); an overview of the OIE standards is provided.

Members of OIE commit themselves to apply the standards provided by OIE, usually through national legislation and policy. In some parts of the world, supranational economic and political unions have developed, which apply common policies and legal frameworks. One example of such a supranational community is the European Union (EU). The legal instrument that provides the biosecurity framework for aquatic animal health for the EU is Council Directive 2006/88/EC (on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals). The Directive is used to illustrate how the SPS agreement and OIE standards were translated into legislation.

At the national level, the role of the competent authority, instruments to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases and limit the impact of endemic diseases are described and discussed; import risk assessments and awareness of international developments play an important role in informing biosecurity strategies. Biosecurity at farm level is assisted by the development of biosecurity plans.

Due to the close connection between farmed and wild aquatic animal populations, there is a risk of pathogen exchange between the two. Introduction of exotic pathogens may have significant consequences for both wild and farmed populations.