The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recently hosted international experts in aquatic animal health from the private and public sectors to discuss the seafood revolution and how they can collaborate to overcome its challenges and support its growth in a sustainable way.
More than 250 people representing 90 countries participated in the OIE Global Conference on Aquatic Animal Health, which was held April 2-4 in Santiago, Chile. The event highlighted the multiple opportunities for continued growth that the aquaculture sector has available to it and the need for collaboration between decision-makers, aquatic animal health professionals and other partners for assuring its safe and sustainable development.
"The world has a big challenge forward in terms of animal proteins," said Jose Ramon Valente, Chile's Minister of Economy, Development & Tourism. "The 7 billion people that we are today, and that will become 9 billion by 2050, have a tremendously increased demand for calories and, especially, for proteins. This conference will help us to understand what are the conditions that must exist in the world to encourage food production in a way that is compatible with the environment and the sanitary standards."
Aquaculture is a recent industry, growing at about 6% per year, OIE said, noting that in 2014, aquaculture achieved the remarkable milestone of surpassing fisheries production. Projected seafood demand is strong due to the rising middle class and new dietary recommendations, but aquatic animal diseases threaten to limit its production and growth, OIE added.
"Unfortunately, the rise of aquatic animal production, particularly through intensification of aquaculture and trade presents serious challenges," pointed out Dr. Mark Schipp, president of the OIE World Assembly of Delegates. "These include increased local, regional and global exposure to the risk of disease emergence and spread. Protecting our valuable aquaculture and fisheries commodities, and the environment that supports them, requires rapid advancement and implementation of management practices to combat this risk. The transnational spread of aquatic animal diseases is a serious issue that has devastated aquatic animal production in many countries, and the OIE standards aim to reduce these risks substantially."
To be able to feed the world tomorrow, the aquaculture sector also needs to face and overcome significant day-to-day challenges, OIE said in its announcement.
"Our sustainability journey is just beginning," said George Chamberlain from Global Aquaculture Alliance. "When you look at climate change, social issues, plastics in the oceans, antimicrobial resistance, feed ingredients, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. Collaboration among us is the key going forward."
During the three-day event, participants had the opportunity to discuss improved approaches to emerging disease response, best biosecurity practices, strategies to reduce the use of antimicrobial agents and the importance of implementing the OIE International Standards.
OIE said a series of recommendations were released at the end of the meeting that will be submitted to the OIE World Assembly in May 2019 for endorsement.
These recommendations notably urge members to:
* Take steps to improve compliance with the OIE Standards, notably surveillance and early detection; notification to the OIE of aquatic animal diseases, and the prevention and control of pathogenic agents in aquatic animals;
* Implement biosecurity measures to mitigate the risk of the introduction or release from the aquaculture establishment;
* Ensure transparent, timely and consistent notification of all OIE listed disease and emerging disease to the OIE through the World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS) to support other countries in taking appropriate action to prevent the transboundary spread of important diseases of aquatic animals, and
* Ensure that the OIE Standards and guidelines for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents are respected at the country level and promote advances in disease management to reduce the need for antimicrobials.
"On the basis of these recommendations, let’s try to build a project together combining all partners’ initiatives to find synergies and maximize the impact on the results. This is the challenge of the OIE for the coming years," OIE director general Dr. Monique Eloit said.