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Preparedness and response to aquatic animal health emergencies: A regional workshop held in Jakarta, Indonesia - Rohana P. Subasinghe[3] and Melba B. Reantaso[4]

21-23 September 2004


The epidemic spread of aquatic animal diseases is an increasing event in Asia. We have witnessed devastating impacts of Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome (EUS) in freshwater fish during the 1980s and the 1990s; Viral Nervous Necrosis (VNN) in marine fish since 1990s; White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) in penaeid shrimps from early 1990s to-date; and the emerging Taura Syndrome Virus (TSV) in Penaeus vannamei. There are still a number of unresolved diseases such as akoya pearl oyster mortalities in Japan and abalone mortalities in China. Indonesia is currently faced with a serious epizootic, possibly Koi Herpes Virus (KHV), causing largescale mortalities with significant economic losses, among cultured common and koi carp (Cyprinus carpio) populations, beginning early 2002 until present. More recently, during last quarter of 2003, an outbreak of KHV also occurred in common carp and koi carp in Japan. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific have, thus, to various degrees suffered the consequences of disease outbreaks.

The above examples of disease outbreaks demonstrate the vulnerability of aquaculture and wild resource production to wide scale infectious disease emergencies and the significant impacts which new diseases can have on local economies. Unless appropriate health management and biosecurity measures are continuously put in place and effectively implemented, the risks of major disease incursions and newly emerging diseases will continue to threaten the sector. Hopefully, past experiences in dealing with disease epizootics will provide useful lessons towards better preparedness for, and improved responses to similar events when they occur in the future.

In the case of KHV, affected species are widely traded within and between countries in the region and outside, and therefore pose a considerable risk of a trans-boundary epizootic. Common and koi carps are important commodities, as foodfish and a high-value ornamental fish, respectively. Many rural communities depend on these species to support their livelihoods both in Indonesia and in several neighboring countries. Effective prevention and control measures complemented by extension, educational programmes and capacity building for farmers/producers are essential to reduce the risk. A strong national approach along with a well planned regional strategy are required to ensure the operational capability is in place to effectively respond to disease emergencies. Equally important is a clear understanding by both governments and their industries of the benefits from investing and participating in emergency response systems.

It is clear from our knowledge and experience that the capacity for early detection and effective response to disease emergencies is inadequate in many countries in Asia due to several factors such as, limited diagnostic capacities, lack of information, insufficient human resources and infrastructure, and lack of financial resources. Limited understanding of the gravity of the problem often results in failure to provide priority action at national and regional levels. This urgently needs rectifying to avoid further introduction of exotic pathogens and spread of emerging diseases. KHV is a prime example, requiring immediate attention from relevant international research and development agencies, as well as the private sector. Concerted action is essential for controlling this serious epizootic and to regain both consumer and producer confidence.

In order to review and evaluate the national and regional status on emergency preparedness and response to infectious diseases in aquatic animals, and to find avenues for providing guidance and assistance for national and regional improvements, FAO in partnership with the Government of Indonesia, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) and the WorldFish Centre (WFC) organized a workshop entitled "Emergency Preparedness and Response to Aquatic Animal Diseases in Asia". The Workshop reviewed the regional experiences in responding to disease emergencies, including the work accomplished through an FAO Technical Cooperation Programme project in Indonesia aimed at providing technical assistance to improve national capacity to respond to the ongoing carp disease epizootic. The Workshop was intended to assist Indonesia and countries of the Asian region in:

(i) identifying actions to reduce the impacts of KHV on aquaculture and small-scale fisheries; and

(ii) strengthening preparedness and response to serious aquatic animal disease emergencies.

Workshop Report

Fifty two participants including 33 international persons participated in the workshop which was inaugurated by the Hon. Minister of Fisheries of Indonesia (Fig. 1, see page 8). The workshop included presentations on various experiences in dealing with disease epizootics. The report of the workshop, including the manuscripts of the presentations made, discussions and recommendations are currently being compiled. This document will be published this year in form of an FAO Fisheries Technical Paper including a Manual on Preparedness and Response to Aquatic Disease Emergencies in Asia.

The workshop unanimously agreed that the areas of emergency preparedness and response are new challenges for the region and the initiative should be continued with possible assistance from FAO and other interested agencies. It was also agreed that the possibility of joint assistance programme by the FAO Fisheries (FI) and Agriculture (AG) Departments should be explored.

This activity was the first joint FI/AG activity on aquatic animal health and both FIand AG/AH are pleased with the positive collaboration and outcome of the workshop. Considering the importance and significance of trans-boundary diseases to aquatic animals and animal production and the increasing significance and the value of the sector, it is considered important for FIand AG/AH to collaborate closely in sharing their experiences and mutually benefiting their activities worldwide. Efforts will be made to explore the possibility of working with EMPRESS programme in controlling disease emergencies in aquatic animals and aquaculture.

During the workshop, discussions were held with the Hon. Minister of Marine Affiars and Fisheries, Senior Fisheries officials and several representatives from the agencies participated/collaborated in the workshop on possible follow-up work and assistance to Indonesia. The Norwegian participant from the National Veterinary Institute of Norway is now establishing a formal bilateral collaboration with Indonesia on aquatic animal health.

The Indonesian Authorities made a specific request to FAO for assistance towards establishing an appropriate legal framework for aquatic animal health management and compliance to associated international agreements and treaties including trade.

Some of the key points discussed and agreed are given below:

Figure 1. Fifty-two participants composed of 22 local Indonesian and 33 international participants (experts from Australia, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines, Thailand), government officials (from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam), as well as representatives of other organizations such as the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), Office International des Epizooties (OIE), and the Southeast Asian Fisheries and Development Center (SEAFDEC). Five FAO staff participated (R.P. Subasinghe, J. Lubroth, A. Vanhoutte of FAO Headquarters, T. Kimura of FAO Indonesia and S. Funge-Smith of FAORAP).

[3] Rohana P. Subasinghe
Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service
FAO Fisheries Department, Rome e - mail:
[4] Melba B. Reantaso
Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service
FAO Fisheries Department, Rome e - mail:

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