By: Dr Mustapha ABA, Aquaculture Researcher. Morocco.
The spread of aquatic animal diseases is becoming a serious threat to human health and the environment. The impact of pathogens can be managed with good hygiene and husbandry practices. Thus, maintaining health in aquaculture is now considered one of the most important aspects of aquaculture development and management. Biosecurity is the key to reducing the risk of disease introduction into an aquaculture operation.
What is biosecurity?
“Biosecurity includes a set of standard scientific measures, adopted to exclude pathogens from culture environments and hosts and, more broadly, limit the establishment and spread of pathogens”.
Reliable sources of stocks, adequate detection and monitoring of diagnostic tools for proprietary diseases, disinfection and pathogen eradication, and accepted practical tools are key elements of biosecurity. Such measures protect seeds against communicable diseases of infectious agents and reduce the consequences of infection. Pathogen screening is crucial to block entry routes.
Why Biosecurity in African Aquaculture?
In recent years, the concepts of biosecurity and biosecurity have been introduced into the aquaculture sector in a progressive way around the world, but always in a discreet and unrepresentative way in the African context. Biosecurity is a series of strategies and actions that, together, promote the interruption of the circulation of pathogens in an animal production system, enhancing the health of aquatic animals. On the other hand, biosecurity measures include strategies and actions that take particular care of the health of the persons concerned and are also closely linked to occupational safety. These two concepts go hand in hand and must be implemented in aquaculture routine in order to achieve orderly, responsible and stable growth in aquaculture production.
In recent years, we can mention the introduction and emergence of new diseases in aquaculture, such as TLV, which affects tilapia farming, bacterial infection, a parasitic infection in fish and shrimps. In this scenario, it is necessary to make efforts to understand the biology of these pathogens, including their maintenance in the reproductive environment, their infection mechanisms, their transmission and the pathological aspects of the disease. Only in this way can we take action against the free movement of these diseases, in particular by focusing on the promotion of better health in the production environment, with decontamination and the establishment of effective health barriers. Otherwise, disorderly growth, without respect for the principles of animal health and the environment, will reach the point where livestock activity will become unsustainable, with major losses due to environmental depreciation and high pathogen pressure.
For the future of aquaculture, health challenges will certainly be greater and more frequent. These are the emergence of new pathogens, as well as the evolution of the resistance and pathogenicity of the etiological agents that we know today in the routine of aquaculture farms. The African aquaculture sector must therefore prepare and anticipate this situation, so that this emerging industry does not suffer major impacts in its consolidation phase.
And how to prepare?
The first step is to train human resources who are trained and willing to answer these questions. Another important factor is to experiment with successful strategies in other livestock activities in Africa, in particular cattle and poultry farming, and to build on models already in place in international aquaculture, including salmon farming. In this way, we will be able to move forward quickly to realize and implement our own African aquaculture biosecurity model, in order to adjust our own model, adapted to each reality of the species raised in the different countries of our continent.
To this end, African aquaculturists must take appropriate biosecurity measures to prevent emerging health problems and reduce the impact of diseases through the principle of disease prevention rather than curative response.