Biosecurity in Aquaculture Part II: National considerations

By Leonardo Galli, Don Griffiths, Pikul Jiravanichpaisal, Nattawadee Wattanapongchart, Oranun Wongsrirattanakul and Andrew Shinn

This is the second, in a series of three articles, focusing on biosecurity in aquaculture. The aim is to provide baseline information for the aquaculture community. In the first article, we focused on biosecurity at the international level. In this article, we will now focus on biosecurity at the national level. It is not difficult to define a biosecurity programme for a country; the difficult task is in implementing it. This requires the training of staff, the quality assurance of laboratory facilities and procedures for samples analysis, and the development of robust contingency plans, etc.

Image of an aquaculture facility
An aquaculture facility, i.e. a hatchery or a farm, can be classified according to their sanitary status, their infrastructure and management level and can then either import aquatic stocks from sites with an equivalent or better score or export to sites with equivalent or lower scores. In each case the movement of aquatic stocks must be in accordance with both local and national regulations.

Sanitary map for each species

This is prerequisite to establishing the sanitary status of the country for the different diseases. It is not possible to establish a biosecurity programme if there is incomplete information on the current status of particular diseases within a country. The first step should be a monitoring programme, at the national level, to determine the precise sanitary condition of aquatic stocks (ie fish or shrimp) in the country, including both cultured and wild populations of a given species. With this information a sanitary map can be defined for each species, then zones and compartments within this can be established. If the importation of live aquatic organisms is necessary, quarantine stations must be available. These quarantine stations can be either governmental or private but they must conform to governmental regulations.

National biosecurity protocol for aquatic species

Once the sanitary status is known and the zones and compartments have been delimited, then a national biosecurity protocol can be defined. This protocol must establish how a given aquatic organism will enter the country (as in the case of importations) and how the aquatic organisms may be translocated within the country. The aquaculture facilities (hatcheries and farms) can be classified according to their sanitary status, infrastructure, management level, etc, and then assigned to different, nationally defined categories based on their scores.

Assuming that three categories are defined, category A sites might be those with a high level of biosecurity; category B with a medium level of biosecurity; whilst category C sites might be those with very low or no level of biosecurity in place in their establishments. This will generate a unidirectional flow of products, where products coming from category A establishments can go to establishments in any category; products from establishments in category B can go only to establishments in category B and C; and, products emanating from establishments within category C can go only to other facilities within the same category. This can create a natural tendency for improvement with the lower level establishments trying to reach higher categories, thereby improving production systems in general.

Image of fish at Tilapia Namsai farm
It is important to determine the precise sanitary condition of native aquatic stocks before considering imports/exports.

Requirements for training and laboratories

The implementation of a biosecurity national programme will require numerous conscientious and well trained technicians. Qualified personal should take control of the main access points into the country, inspect hatcheries and farms, maintain surveillance, run laboratory tests, and ensure proficiency, quality assurance and validation etc. The training of technicians, locally or abroad, is a very important component of the whole process. A Reference Central Laboratory (RCL) should be defined, with the capacity to issue national and international health certificates. This RCL can also certify other regional laboratories located within the host country.

Emergency plan

A clear emergency plan must be in place for each disease in the event of a disease outbreak. Official entities must have legal capacity to execute the emergency plan, without interference from other official institutions. For immediate action when required, it is critical that an organisation chart including positions and personnel requirements, responsibilities and capabilities, is already in place and clearly specified. Likewise, a system of economic compensation to the producer(s) must have been contemplated in advance of a disease episode and in the event that mandatory culling of stock is required to either eradicate the disease threat or to curb further spread.

The Fish Vet Group Asia Limited team
Between hatcheries and farms there is immense variation in infrastructure and system design and although it is not possible to define one precise biosecurity plan that fits all, how biosecurity at the producers’ level can be achieved will be discussed in the third article in this series.

The authors are based in Fish Vet Group Asia Ltd, Bangkok, Thailand. Veterinarian Leonardo Galli is technical director. Don Griffiths is operations director. Pikul Jiravanichpaisal, PhD is senior scientist. Nattawadee Wattanapongchart is business administration manager. Oranun Wongsrirattanakul is laboratory assistant. Wimonthip Jarupheng is administration assistant and Andrew Shinn, PhD is a senior scientist.

For more information on this article contact

Read part 3: Producers level.