Lack of harmony in the certification requirements governing the health of farmed aquatic animals produced in the United States is being addressed by the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The organizations are working together to introduce a joint concept for a voluntary, non-regulatory framework for aquatic animal health standards under the Commercial Aquaculture Health Program Standards (CAHPS). Through their efforts, they hope the commercial industry could better meet the needs of state regulatory agencies and international trading partners.
“Within the US, we have 50 states and many times the states have very different fish health certification requirements so there’s a lack of harmony in the certification process. One producer may have to test for five different pathogens but the same producer in a different state may have to test for two or 10. There’s an inconsistency in the US and that creates additional costs for producers who move live aquatic animals across state lines, and became very difficult for those producers to track because states may change their requirements within a year or two of the producer having met the requirements to begin with,” said Randy MacMillan, a vice-president at Clear Springs Foods and a former president of the NAA.
MacMillan added that because of the global economy, there is a continuing need to have and to enhance bio-security programs over time. Part of CAHPS is to identify the elements of a good aquatic animal health management program, which includes a bio-security program.
“There is flexibility within CAHPS, so that the intensity of the program will vary depending on how much monitoring occurs within your farm or within a geographic zone within your community of aquatic animal farmers,” says MacMillan. “From a bio-security standpoint, if you have 10 farms in a geographic area that are all exercising similar levels of bio-security and perhaps monitoring, then your risk for importing foreign animal disease or an emerging disease is improved.”
CAHPS is based on five key principles, largely centering on best practises for risk characterization and management, surveillance, investigating and reporting and responding appropriately. Perhaps most interesting is the establishment of an aquatic animal health team, comprised of American Fisheries Society certified professionals, USDA APHIS accredited veterinarians, diagnostic laboratory representatives, and other knowledgeable subject matter experts.
“That team meets formally or informally via the internet and e-mail exchange and you start crafting your health management plan and all the elements that go into an effective plan,” says MacMillan.
CAHPS is still in its infancy, with a variety of demonstration projects underway to look at the economics of the program and to evaluate its strengths. MacMillan says that the program will be a great opportunity for the commercial industry.
“We view it as an opportunity for them to ultimately end up with an efficient, aquatic animal health management program for their own farms – one that’s not only efficient but cost effective and ultimately results in better ability to market live aquatic animals and to protect their own assets with a good bio-security program.”
— Matt Jones