03 Health & Welfare
Aquatic animal health and welfare ( AAHW) improvements have continually tracked the expansion of the industry which has enabled the avoidance, prevention, and mitigation of pathogenic and parasitic diseases, and when required, eradication. Disease management can be costly, for example the industry in Scotland spends an estimated >£30M per year implementing an integrated approach to sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) management, highlighting that disease can have implications for production costs as well as environmental constraints that affect access to new locations for industry expansion. Although there are methods in place for reducing the impact of long-understood pathogens and parasites, there is a constant need for greater understanding of these agents and how they are adapting under selection pressures such as changes in climate, ecological communities and farm production methods. In addition, alternate methods of health and welfare management require continual development due to both changes in legislation relating to control procedures (such as the changes impacting on the management of Saprolegnia) and also to provide a greater suite of applications to avoid the development of disease agent resistance. Similarly there is a constant need for developing research to understand emerging issues such as those posed by Amoebic Gill Disease ( AGD), which has been suggested as one of the possible contributors to the predicted reduction in salmon production in 2013.
The importance of AAHW is highlighted by its inclusion in a range of strategies and frameworks both nationally and internationally such as: 'A Fresh Start: The renewed Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture', the 'Scottish Marine Science Strategy 2010-2015'. AAHW is a critical component underlying the principles in the 'Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture', in addition the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform incorporates AAHW for improved production as part of its vision statement and is a priority for the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers. Proposals for work to be addressed under the recently approved Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre includes substantial applied innovative research and development relating to health and welfare. Whilst a recent workshop between Marine Scotland and representatives of the salmon aquaculture industry highlighted that pioneering, explorative science is required to establish an understanding of the fundamental biology of the agent for AGD such as establishing life-cycles, physiology and aspects of pathogenicity as well as developing accurate diagnostic methods. AAHW research is crucial to industry and regulators and scientific researchers who are drawn together to participate in the regular international workshops organised by the Gill Health Initiative, Sea Lice Multination and Pancreas Disease ( PD) Trination.
The recognition for AAHW as part of sustainable food security is highlighted by specific call for tenders under previous Framework Programme and upcoming Horizon 2020 programmes.
The key AAHW research developments for supporting the progression of a sustainable aquaculture industry concern predominantly sea lice, PD, Saprolegnia and AGD, however it must be noted that general topic areas are proposed to allow flexibility to accommodate changing priorities. Research needs include evaluating the benefits from employing modern approaches to problems for which original studies may not have worked. An important example being non-therapeutant treatments for sea lice.