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AQUATIC ANIMAL HEALTH MANAGEMENT: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR RURAL,
SMALL-SCALE AQUACULTURE AND ENHANCED-FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT:

WORKSHOP INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

Rohana P. Subasinghe1 and Michael J. Phillips2

1Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service
FIRI, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome 00100, ITALY

2Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific
PO Box 1040,Kasetsart Post Office
Bangkok 10903, Thailand

 

Subasinghe, R.P., and M.J. Phillips. 2001Subasinghe, R.P., and M.J. Phillips. 2002. Aquatic animal health management: opportunities and challenges for rural, small-scale aquaculture and enhanced-fisheries development: workshop introductory remarks. p. 1-5. In: J.R. Arthur, M.J. Phillips, R.P. Subasinghe, M.B. Reantaso and I.H. MacRae. (eds.) Primary Aquatic Animal Health Care in Rural, Small-scale, Aquaculture Development. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 406.

 

ABSTRACT

The potential contribution of aquaculture to national and household food security, poverty alleviation and income generation (both local and foreign exchange) in many parts of the world has now been well recognised. Similarly, the importance of prevention and control of diseases as a measure to reduce production losses in commercial and semi-commercial aquaculture systems has also been long realised. However, there is a considerable lack of knowledge, understanding and focus on the importance of managing health in rural, small-scale, subsistence-type aquaculture. Modern-day aquaculture practices (mainly semi-commercial and commercial) involve significant domestic and international movement of live aquatic animals and animal products, which has led to the movement and spread of associated pathogens. Such introductions of pathogens not only have caused losses and mortalities in commercial systems, but have also affected small-scale, rural aquaculture and fisheries operations. Besides the impacts of pathogen transfer, many other human activities (agricultural or industrial) can also have negative impacts on rural, small-scale aquaculture and fisheries that could eventually reflect in diseases, mortalities and losses. Since rural aquafarmers are generally resource-poor with little or no knowledge of health management, their ability to respond to such situations effectively is marginal. This paper presents some potential interventions that could assist rural, small-scale, resource-poor farmers to prevent and control disease outbreaks through better health management. The importance of development and implementation of appropriate national policies and regulatory frameworks that can significantly contribute to reducing risks to poorer households involved in rural aquaculture is emphasised.

1This paper was prepared from an introductory presentation made at the beginning of the Scoping Workshop, to provide initial ideas and thoughts for the participants and to lay the foundation for preceding discussions.

INTRODUCTION

Aquaculture, beyond doubt, is the fastest growing food-producing sector in the world. The important role of aquaculture in providing aquatic animal protein to make up for the shortfall in wild fisheries, and its socio-economic role in providing livelihood opportunities and economic security, particularly for the less-developed regions of the world, is now being strongly recognised globally. Small-scale farmers represent the backbone of many rural communities in both industrialised and non-industrialised countries, and the contribution of small-scale aquaculture to the livelihoods of people living in rural areas in many countries in Asia is significant.

THE IMPACTS OF AQUATIC ANIMAL DISEASES

The threat of disease has now become a primary constraint and risk to the growth of the aquaculture sector, significantly impeding both economic and socio-economic development in regions dependant on aquaculture and fisheries. The importance of prevention and control of disease risks as a measure to reduce production losses in commercial, semi-commercial and small-scale aquaculture systems has thus received increased attention. Many factors have contributed to the health problems currently faced by aquaculture, including those of the rural, small-scale sector. Over the past three decades, aquaculture has expanded, intensified and diversified, such that modern-day aquaculture practices often involve significant domestic and international movement of live aquatic animals and animal products. This has led to the movement and spread of associated pathogens, and such introductions of pathogens have not only caused losses and mortalities in commercial systems, but also affected small-scale, rural aquaculture and fisheries operations. There are many such situations which exist in most aquaculture-producing regions all over the world; epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) in freshwater fish, white spot disease (WSD) in Penaeus monodon, and viral diseases affecting cultured marine fishes are classic examples.

Since rural and small-scale aquaculture and enhanced fisheries contribute a significant amount of production of freshwater and marine fish and penaeid shrimp, a significant percentage of disease losses appears to occur in the rural, small-scale sector. There are some examples that provide an indication of the impact. Losses due to EUS in several Asian countries before 1990 exceeded US$10 million (Chinabut 1994), while WSD-related shrimp losses ranged from US$400 million in P.R. China in 1993 (Wei 2000) to US$17.6 million in India in 1994 (Subasinghe et al. 1995). In southern Vietnam, approximately 1,200 families dependent on rice-shrimp culture have experienced annual losses of more than US$300,000 due to shrimp diseases. Between 1995-1997, the "red spot disease" of grass carp affected 4,000 of 5,000 cages in operation, with losses estimated at US$0.5 million in rural communities in the northern area of Vietnam (Subasinghe et al. 2001). In a survey on the impact of fish health problems on rural, small-scale farmers involved in grouper culture in the Philippines, 88.3% of 60 farmers interviewed experienced reduction in income due to fish health and disease problems. Farmers incurred increased household debt, particularly those who borrowed capital for investment (Somga et al. 2001). In a related survey in Thailand, where finfish cage culture of seabass and grouper is mostly comprised of small farms (one to five cages), all of 82 farmers interviewed reported losses due to diseases (Roongkamnertwongsa et al. 2001).

Such losses affect the livelihoods of people involved in aquaculture and the communities in which they occur through reduced food availability and loss of income and employment, as well as other associated social consequences (Subasinghe et al. 2001). Diseases can result in critical shortfalls in production which can lead to food shortages and market destabilisation, and in some cases, can trigger trade problems that may affect small-scale farmers. Besides the apparent impacts of pathogen introductions and transfer, many other human activities (agricultural or industrial) can also have negative impacts on rural, small-scale aquaculture and enhanced fisheries that increase the risk of disease problems and stock losses.

ADDRESSING DISEASE PROBLEMS IN SMALL-SCALE AQUACULTURE

Rural, small-scale farmers are generally resource-poor and have little or no knowledge of health management. As a result, their ability to respond to such situations effectively is limited. It is therefore important to better understand how the rural, small-scale aquaculture sector is managed, both by the farmers themselves and the others involved in the sectoral activities, and to develop appropriate interventions which can assist resource-poor farmers to prevent and control disease outbreaks through better health management. Some of these interventions that may improve the health management standards of the rural, small-scale aquaculture and enhanced fisheries sectors include:

Understanding of the risks and impacts of diseases, not only on the rural, small-scale production systems, but also on the overall livelihoods of vulnerable communities, needs to be improved. Health management should not be considered as a separate entity within aquaculture and or rural development projects involving aquaculture or enhanced fisheries. It should be integrated within the overall context of rural development programmes.

PRIMARY HEALTH CARE

The emphasis of this workshop is "primary health care." Primary health care is considered to be an appropriate approach for small-scale aquaculture. It should be practical, community-based, scientifically sound, socially acceptable and appropriate to the needs of small-scale farmers. The emphasis should be on preventative health care of aquatic animals and maintaining a healthy environment that reduces the risk of disease outbreaks or production losses, and promotes healthy production systems. The emphasis should also be on people and populations, and not narrowly limited to pathogens and technology.

The challenge of this workshop will be to shed some light on the scale of the existing aquatic animal disease problems and their impacts in order to gain a better understanding and further insights of their risks to rural livelihoods. There is opportunity to identify methods for monitoring the health of these systems at the farm level and to develop affordable interventions tailored for the needs of the poorer members of the rural aquaculture community. The opportunity also exists to reverse the trend of top down development in aquatic animal health management and to develop a holistic approach that will benefit small-scale producers and those who are most vulnerable.

REFERENCES

Chinabut, S. 1994. EUS in Thailand. p. 58-60. In: R.J. Roberts, B. Campbell and I.H. MacRae. (eds.) ODA Regional Seminar on Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome at the Aquatic Animal Health Research Institute. Bangkok, Thailand, 25-27 January 1994.

Roongkamnertwongsa, S., S. Kanchanakhan and S. Direkbusarakom. 2001. Grouper viral impact survey in the south and east coasts of Thailand. p. 47-50. In: M.G. Bondad-Reantaso, J. Humphrey, S. Kanchanakhan and S. Chinabut. (eds.) Report and Proceeding of APEC FWG Project 02/200 "Development of a Regional Research Programme on Grouper Virus Transmission and Vaccine Development," 18-20 October 2000, Bangkok, Thailand. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Aquatic Animal Health Research Institute (AAHRI), Fish Health Section of the Asian Fisheries Society (FHS/AFS) and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA). Bangkok, Thailand. (In press).

Somga, S.S., J.R. Somga and M.G. Bondad-Reantaso. 2001. Survey on the impacts of grouper viral and other diseases in the Philippines. p. 41-46. In: M.G. Bondad-Reantaso, J. Humphrey, S. Kanchanakhan and S. Chinabut. (eds.) Report and Proceeding of APEC FWG Project 02/2000 "Development of a Regional Research Programme on Grouper Virus Transmission and Vaccine Development," 18-20 October 2000, Bangkok, Thailand. Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Aquatic Animal Health Research Institute (AAHRI), Fish Health Section of the Asian Fisheries Society (FHS/AFS) and the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA). Bangkok, Thailand. (In press).

Subasinghe, R.P., J.R. Arthur and M. Shariff. 1995. Proceedings of the Regional Expert Consultation on Aquaculture Health Management in Asia and the Pacific. Serdang, Malaysia, 22-24 May 1995. Health Management in Asian Aquaculture. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. No. 360, 142 p.

Subasinghe, R.P., M.G. Bondad-Reantaso and S.E. McGladdery. 2001. Aquaculture development, health and wealth. In: R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery and J.R. Arthur. (eds.) Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome. (In press).

Wei, Q. 2000. Country Report. People's Republic of China. In: Asia-Pacific Regional Aquatic Animal Health Management Programme. Final Workshop under FAO/NACA TCP/RAS/9065 (A) "Assistance for Responsible Movement of Live Aquatic Animals" in Cooperation with OIE and the Ministry of Agriculture, China P.R., Beijing, China PR, 27-30 June 2000. China PR National Strategy. WP No. 04, 13 p.

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