I’m a bit late posting this but on February 5th I did another interview with the Under the Sea Radio Show. We had a wide ranging discussion over two hours. THe first hour really addressed careers in veterinary medicine with a focus on aquatics. The second hour was quite an open discussion of fish health management. I hope you enjoy the show.
It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted. Here is a little interview from the past.
Marine Science Chat is a regular radio show in Newport that showcases individuals and work being done at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. These shows are also available as podcasts.
I’m heading to Japan later today. Stay tuned for posts about this current trip.
Last week while I was in Singapore I had the opportunity to discuss fish health management and particularly quarantine of marine ornamental fish and invertebrates with Kevin Erickson a director-at-large with the Marine Aquarium Society of North America.
I’m constantly amazed at technology and the capability to communicate globally. We did the interview via Skype. Kevin was in Stirling, Scotland and I was in Singapore. What an amazing world!!
I hope you find the interview interesting. Please feel free to post any comments. I’m always interested in your comments and opinions.
On my way home today. I’m writing this at the airport in Vancouver BC.
Over the past few days I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of farms and export facilities in both Singapore and Malaysia. What I’ve taken away is an industry in these countries that is working to significantly upgrade their biosecurity and health screening procedures to meet increasing demands as well as anticipated new requirements from the World Animal Health Organization, the EU, Australia and to some extent the US.
We visited a number of facilities with significant biosecurity protocols which included:
- Separate quarantine facilities for export – fish are quarantined in these export facility prior to shipment. These facilities are separate from the actual production facilities. We visited two of these facilities that are slated to come on line in the next few months.
- Some facilities have two levels of quarantine; pre-quarantine at the production facility prior to shipment to the export quarantine facility.
- Separate facilities for holding domestic and imported fish.
- Movement from pond culture to tank and cement pond culture. Easier to prevent disease spread and easier to disinfect the rearing units.
- Tanks and ponds with individual water supplies and filtration. Water is not shared between tanks/ponds.
- Dedicated equipement for each tank or rearing unit.
- Individual siphons for each holding/rearing tank. These were actually hard-plumbed. Pretty cool idea.
- Bird netting, covered or enclosed rearing areas.
- Regular disease screening for export purposes but also as part of an ongoing health management program.
These are a few of the more significant examples of the move to more biosecure production systems.
Of course, there are still many facilities that are rearing fish in the older style pond culture systems many with many cage nets within individual ponds. There are also problems with pest control in some facilities – frogs moving between pods, birds, snakes. Further, there are instances where there appears to be inadequate disinfection between batches, not pulling mortalities quickly and inadequate equipment disinfection. I believe all of these issues can be addressed in time.
However, the hobbyist must be willing to pay more for this increased level of health management and biosecurity. All too often I hear, particularly in the US that hobbyists want healthier and safer fish but I’m told by many retailers that they are unwilling to pay more for these fish. Price still seems to be the guiding factor. THese additional health management practices add cost to the production process and it is important for the hobbyist to understand this fact.
Just some initial thoughts. Next I will post some images to give you a feel for the different types of farms and export facilities. Stay tuned. TMM
Here’s a nice article about the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC). The ornamental fish health program is based at this facility. THe article gives readers a nice overview of the varied activities at the Visitors Center.
I’m in Singapore, a wonderful city, attending Aquarama one of the major ornamental fish trade shows.
Aquarama is an annual trade show held at the Suntec Convention and trade center in Singapore. The show provides an opportunity for may segments of the industry to come together and network, see new products, conduct business, attend seminars and tour facilities.
The Trade Show
It is a large event strictly devoted to ornamental fish and invertebrates. The show is also well known for its fish and aquarium show. Here producers enter fish, planted tanks and marine aquarium displays. THey are judged by experts and the winners announced. It is another great way for producers to showcase their products.
The Fish Show
THere are also two days of educational seminars, addressing key issues in the industry. Topics covered over the past two days focused on international perspectives on a changing industry and maintaining of improving quality of the animals traded. Speakers from multiple countries provided a diverse range of views, experiences and opinions. Specific topics included:
- Resident-based Ornamental Fisheries in the Western Ghats, India: Managing Poverty Alleviation and Change at the community Level. – Dr. Rajeev Raghavan
- An update on Recent Biosecurity Changes and Their Impact on the Australian Ornamental fish Sector – Shane Willis, Australia
- Roadmap towards a “Green” Aquarium Industry – Scott Dowd, USA
- Eco-Freindly Marine Culture and Capture – A Mexican Perspective – Dr. Nuno Simoes, Mexico
- Potential Impacts of Climate Change on the Ornamental Fish Industry – Ryan Donnelly, Australia
- A New quality Assurance Scheme to Assure better Quality Ornamental Fish from Singapore – Poh Yew Kwang, Singapore
- Total Quality Management in the Aquarium Business – Dr. Anton Lamboj, Austria
- Fish Health and Biosecurity Issues in Retail Shops and Wholesale facilities – Dr. Gerald Bassaleer, The Netherlands
- DNA Multi-Scan a New Fish Disease Diagnostic Tool – Dr. Kris Willems, Belgium
- Implications of Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome Legislation for the Ornamental Aquatic Industry – Somkiat Kanchanakhan, Thailand
- EU Fish Health Legislation: Clarifying the Confusion and Introduction of New Online Tool for the Successful Completion of Health Certificates for Import – Alex Ploeg, The Netherlands
- Invasive Ornamental Fish Species in Singapore: A Case Study – Dr. Ng Heok Hee, Singapore
- A Trade Perspective on Invasive Species – Sven Fossa, Norway
- A Profile of the Indian Ornamental Fish Industry with Special Focus on the Concerns of Key Players – Dr. Mini Sakharan, India
- Trends in Breeding Marine Aquarium Fish: Where Are We Today and Where Do We Need to Go? – Matthew Wittenrich, USA
- Where do Science, Industry, and Aquariums meet?Practical Applications for What Can Be From THings Learned in the Aquarium Hobby – Julian Sprung, USA
What I have taken away from these presentations and my discussions with industry members is that there are three emerging areas that all sectors of the industry must address in the next few years:
- The need for improved biosecurity throughout all sectors of the industry. THis is being driven by new emerging diseases as well as re-emerging diseases that not only pose a threat to the ornamental fish trade but also to the aquaculture industry for food fish and invertebrates. Consequently there is increased scrutiny by the regulatory bodies for national and international trade. THis is a truly global issue since ornamental fish are being exported from over 130 different countries.
- The need to address the issue of aquatic invasive species. There are many animals traded that could have significant invasive potential in many countries. Many of these are banned for import but are often included due to poor quality control at packing or a lack of awareness of the specific regulations and/or risks on the part of the exporters and importers. There is a need for more research characterizing the specific invasive pathways as well as improved outreach and education at all levels when it comes to aquatic invasive species.
- There is emerging pressure to develop specific guidelines that ensure adequate concern for animal welfare throughout all sectors of the industry. At this point the European Union and Australia appear to be the primary drivers though there are also emerging discussions on this topic in the United Staes as well. It is not inconceivable to envision specific regulations that would require documentation of adherence to specific welfare guidelines in order for ornamental fish to be exported to some of these countries. This would probably be very much like a health certificate. Obviously, this will be an area of much spirited debate and diplomacy since the definitions of welfare, the perceptions of an actual need for guidelines, and the appropriate methods for guideline development and enforcement vary dramatically across the globe.
These are all weighty issues that will not be addressed overnight. However, it is very important to continue discussions, continue to develop industry solutions and to maintain contact and educate key regulatory bodies about the industry. The key is to remain proactive. The alternative is regulatory requirements developed and implemented with little industry input. Not making a decision to address an issue is a decision but it may not be a very good one in this case.
This post is really aimed at the retailer but the basic principles can be applied in all segments of the industry. Again, the specific approaches to biosecurity must be tailored to the actual risks, needs and capability of each facility. TMM
The goal of pathogen exclusion is to prevent the entrance of an infectious agent into a facility, thereby preventing infection and possibly disease in a group of fish. To accomplish this, you must recognize and understand the various routes by which an infectious agent can enter a pristine fish tank or pond. This allows you to plan defensive measures that will block that entry.
An obvious route of entry of pathogens into a facility is via the incoming fish. These animals may be asympotmatic carriers of a pathogen, or may have frank disease. It can be very difficult to determine if one is receiving healthy fish, and rarely can a manager be totally confident that the fish he has received are in fact healthy. To help minimize opportunities for diseased fish to enter a facility, owners/managers must scrutinize potential suppliers before fish are purchased or shipped.
The presence and persistence of pathogens in water makes this medium a potential source of pathogen entry into a fish facility. Water supply is a major consideration when designing a biosecurity program based upon pathogen exclusion.
Fish food can not only serve as a source of pathogens, but poor, contaminated or spoiled diets can compromise the fish and make them more susceptible to infection by pathogens. In most cases, good quality commercial diets will satisfy the basic nutritional requirements of ornamental fish, and are unlikely to host infectious agents. As with fish suppliers, one should consider reputation and history of service when selecting food suppliers. The food should be carefully inspected to ensure that there is no spoilage. Live foods deserve special consideration as there is a higher potential for harboring pathogens, and caution is warranted. Pretreatment or quarantine of the live food animals may be considered.
The people that enter a facility, whether staff or customers, should be considered in a biosecurity plan as they can be a source of pathogen introduction as well as pathogen persistence. Obviously, these people cannot be excluded from the facility, but the risks they pose can be managed.
Quarantine to prevent pathogen entry
Quarantine is critical to preventing introduction of pathogens into a facility. Quarantine also provides for the important process of acclimation of fish to new water conditions, new husbandry protocols, and new feeds. Furthermore, the quarantine system and quarantine period allows time for the fish immune system to recuperate from the stresses of transport and handling.
All new fish that arrive at a facility should be quarantined. Fish from separate sources should be quarantined separately. Additionally, any fish that have had contact with fish or water from other facilities, that are wild-caught or farm-raised, or have been returned to the facility by customers should also be quarantined before they are mixed with holding or display stock. Finally, many plants and invertebrates are capable of carrying potential fish disease agents including intermediate stages of many common fish parasites. Therefore it is wise to quarantine all plants and invertebrates in separate quarantine systems.
Quarantine Facilities and Systems
A quarantine facility should be distinct from the retail, wholesale, or import facility. It can be located in a separate building or within a room adjacent to the main fish holding area, physically separated by a closed door and footbath. Quarantine facilities should have designated equipment that is not used outside the quarantine area. Access to this facility is restricted to those employees assigned to this work area. The restricted access to the quarantine area should be clearly emphasized by appropriate and well-placed signage, limiting access to those properly trained and authorized to be in that area.
Figure 1. illustrates the features of a quarantine system as well as the recommended movement of fish through the ornamental fish facility.
Figure 1. Recommended flow of fish through a quarantine facility at an ornamental fish retail establishment. The figure reiterates some of the important questions and issues a facility manager must consider in order to prevent disease introduction and propagation within a facility. These same considerations would be generally applicable within any ornamental fish enterprise.
The duration of quarantine is generally based upon the life-cycle of the most common disease organisms found in the fish species of interest. A quarantine period of 2-4 weeks at the optimal temperature is often recommended. The authors generally recommend a 4-week quarantine as a minimum for most species of fish, although many veterinarians would recommend 60-90 days of quarantine for many cool-water pond fish. However, this duration may not be practical for many businesses. If a retailer is unable to complete recommended quarantine periods, they should strongly urge their customers to establish their own quarantine in the above fashion for the recommended period of time.
As the fish progress through the quarantine period, diseases may emerge, and treatment rather than culling of the affected fish may be considered. During quarantine fish must be examined daily. Dead or sick fish should be promptly culled and examined by trained staff or veterinarians to identify the cause of death or illness so that corrective and preventative measures and/or treatments can be started. When possible routine health monitoring of apparently healthy fish may be considered to identify emerging disease issues within a facility before they become a serious problem. Such monitoring may include: physical examination, skin scrapes, gill biopsies, fecal examinations, bacteriology, serology, molecular diagnostics and/or necropsy depending on the species and potential disease risks.
Your comments are always welcome. I’d be particularly interested in comments/experiences about implementing pathogen exclusion approaches at large import and/or production facilities. In the next post I’ll discuss the principles of pathogen containment. TMM
Biosecurity has become an emerging issue within the ornamental fish industry. We are seeing increased discussions of biosecurity concepts at the industry , veterinary and regulatory level. OFI has recently publish a book on biosecurity and there is chapter on biosecurity in the new book, Fundamentals of Ornamental Fish Health. As I travel around and visist ornamental fish facilities within the United states and internationally I am alsways interested in learning about different approaches to biosecurity and fish health management. With my upcoming travels to Singapore and Malaysia I thought it would be a good time to begin a series of discussions about biosecurity from our perspective here at OSU. What follows are some thoughts developed by myself and my colleague, Dr. Jerry Heidel.
What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity consists of the practices and procedures used to prevent the introduction, emergence, spread, and persistence of infectious agents and disease within and around fish production and holding facilities. Furthermore, these practices help eliminate conditions that can enhance disease susceptibility among the fish. In short, biosecurity precautions are put in place to exclude and contain fish pathogens. Biosecurity practices are applicable to all levels of the ornamental fish industry: producers, wholesalers, retailers, and hobbyists. Proper use of biosecurity measures will help prevent introduction of infectious disease in a fish facility, and will also help minimize the risk of diseases being passed from producer to hobbyist.
As import-export regulations for ornamental fish become increasingly stringent on a global level, veterinarians may be called upon to assist ornamental fish facilities in the planning and implementation of biosecurity programs. We will present a brief overview of the major considerations that should be taken into account when developing a biosecurity program for an ornamental fish facility.
Basic biosecurity procedures are uniform across the industry, but the biosecurity plan will be tailored to meet the special needs of each business. As the scope, needs, and finances of the business change, the facility manager will modify and adjust biosecurity measures accordingly, yet maintain the basic tenets of good biosecurity practices.
Designing and implementing biosecurity practices can be simplified if we consider some basic themes: pathogen exclusion, pathogen containment, and basic best health practices. We will consider the elements of each, and show how these elements will allow you to hinder access of pathogens to a facility, control the spread of pathogens that may emerge, and promote high health and disease resistance among the fish in the facility. The overlap of practices addressing these themes will become evident.
Next we will discuss basic concepts of pathogen exclusion, pathogen containment and finally best health practices. I look forward to your discussions. TMM
I’ve been back from my trip to India and lsrael for a bit over two months but until now winding down the quarter has kept me from posting about this trip.
I travelled to India to attend the Asia Pacific Aquaculture Conference held in Kochin. While there I gave three papers related to industry development and training. Perhaps I will provide more on that at a later date.
I had the opportunity to visit some fish farms in the beautiful backwaters of Kerala. These were primarily polyculture operations, rice and fish or rice and prawns. I then had the opportunity to travel with Mr. Krishna Dey and Dr. Narayanan, two private consultants to the ornamental fish industry in India. Mr. Dey arranged for me to meet with representatives from the Kerala Ornamental Fish Farmers Association (KOFFA) and tour some of their facilities in the hills above Kochin. There are about 200 tropical fish farms in Kerala with a focus on many common freshwater ornamental fish and ornamental aquatic plants. There are also a number of native fishes that are collected in the wild or cultured. THese are being exported in low numbers or being developed for export. I hope to have a guest blog on this in the future. At this point most of the local production is going into the domestic market but the industry is working towards building its export capacity.
While touring these facilities Mr. Dey, Dr. Narayanan and myself had the opportunity to film a short educational video that will be released to the local association. The video followed an interview/discussion format between myself , Dr. Narayanan and Mr. Dey as we discussed emerging health issues and principles of health management at each of the facilities. This culminated in a group discussion between the three of us as well as Mr. Rajan Punnoose, Vice President of the KOFFA and Mr. Joy Joseph past president of the KOFFA. The setting was the beautiful garden at Mr. Joy’s home and fish farm/hatchery. I hope to make the video available on this blog in the near future.
I’ve included some images from this trip. I hope you enjoy the tour. I’ll post some images and thoughts about the Israel leg in a few days.
THE PET FISH DOCTOR
When your dog or cat needs medical care, it’s generally not difficult to find a local veterinarian who is familiar with the general afflictions facing these species. But if your fish needs a doctor, whom are you going to call? Veterinarians with knowledge of pet fish medicine may be few and far between, but they do exist.
Dr. Helen Roberts is a small and exotic animal veterinarian who is one of the few practitioners in the country who provide medical and surgical care for fish. Located only 15 minutes from Niagara Falls, she is a partner at the 5 Corners Animal Hospital and is the go-to fish doctor at her associated practice, Aquatic Veterinary Medicine of Western New York. She says that when she talks to people about her work, most are “amazed” that she treats fish, and that she even performs surgery on fish. “I think the public perception is once a fish is sick, it’s dead,” she says. But through her veterinary practice, her educational publications and her lectures to all kinds of audiences about fish health, this outdated perception is beginning to change.