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Movement[6] of live aquatic animals is a necessity for development of aquaculture on both a subsistence and commercial level. However, such movements increase the probability of introducing new pathogens, which can have dire consequences on aquaculture, capture fisheries and related resources, as well as the livelihoods which depend on them. In order to minimise or avoid the risk of pathogen transfer via aquatic animal movements, it is essential that the individuals and organisations involved in such activities appreciate, and participate in, the overall health management process[7].

The adverse social, economic and environmental impacts which have resulted from the irresponsible or ill-considered movement of live aquatic animals and their products have led to global recognition of the need for health management protocols to protect aquaculture, fisheries resources and the aquatic environment. In many cases, these impacts have been a direct result of the absence of effective national and regional health management strategies. However, formulation of effective quarantine measures[8], health certification and guidelines applicable on an international scale is complicated. A wide range of social, economic and environmental circumstances have to be considered, along with the range of aquatic animal species involved and their pathogens and diseases. In addition, differing reasons for moving live aquatic animals and products impose a further set of variables to the process. Nevertheless, the serious impacts of unrestricted regional and international movement of aquatic animals merit international recognition - a fact clearly reflected in the International Aquatic Animal Health Code and the Diagnostic Manual of Aquatic Animal Diseases of the Office International des Épizooties (OIE 2000a, 2000b), which provide guidelines and recommendations for reducing the risk of spreading specific pathogens considered relevant to international trade of aquatic animals.

Since present international protocols are not always applicable to the disease concerns of aquatic food production and trade in the Asia Region, the need for effective health management protocols which focus on the species and disease problems of this region has been recognised for many years. A regional, as opposed to national, approach is considered appropriate, since many countries in the region share social, economic, industrial, environmental, biological and geographical characteristics. A regionally adopted health management programme will facilitate trade, and protect aquatic production (subsistence and commercial) and the environment upon which they depend, from preventable disease incursions.

A joint FAO/NACA Asia-Regional Programme on Aquatic Animal Health Management was undertaken to review:

This review (see Humphrey et al. 1997) highlighted the fact that the disease risks associated with pathogen transfer in the Asia Region can only be reduced through a broader approach to aquatic animal health management than currently outlined in disease-specific codes of practice (e.g., the OIE code) or in codes and protocols developed specifically for northern hemisphere countries (e.g., the ICES and EIFAC codes). In addition, it underlined the need for pre-border (exporter), border and post-border (importer) involvement in the programme, to ensure co-operative health management of aquatic animal movement. With the support of an FAO Technical Co-operation Programme (TCP) implemented by NACA, this document was compiled by a group of aquatic animal health experts within and outside the region to assist the development of effective health management procedures for safe movement of live aquatic animals within and between countries in the region. It summarises the results of the FAO-NACA review process and proposes practical and effective regional guidelines for reducing the risks associated with transfer of pathogens in the Asia Region.

[6] Terms used in this document are defined in Section 3, Definitions, of the Technical Guidelines.
[7] For the purpose of this document, the health management process is defined (see the Technical Guidelines, Section 3) as “aquatic animal health management in its broadest sense, encompassing pre-border (exporter), border and post-border (importer) activities, as well as relevant national and regional capacity-building requirements (infrastructure and specialised expertise) for addressing health management activities, and implementation of effective national and regional policies and regulatory frameworks required to reduce the risk of disease spread through movement (intra- and international) of live aquatic animals."
[8] Measures developed as a result of risk analysis to reduce the disease risks associated with the transfer of disease agents with live aquatic animal movements. This usually refers to trans-boundary movements, with pre-border, border, and post-border health management processes, however, such activities are equally applicable to intra-national movement of live aquatic animals.

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