Disease surveillance and reporting is very important for sustainable production and growth of aquaculture. Studies show that at times more than fifty percent of production losses is because of diseases. The outbreak of diseases is more severe and frequent with intensive culture. Incidences of disease outbreaks have also been reported in several shrimp farms during the pandemic period, mainly due to poor biosecurity measures in the farms and hatcheries. There are also reports of trans-boundary diseases.
Recently, there are reports of occurrences of DIV1 and IMNV in shrimp farms in several countries threatening the global shrimp production. Do we have the requisite information and laboratories to test these diseases in India? We need to discuss and strengthen our monitoring systems for such diseases in aquaculture.
New technological advances and increased demands for fish as source of animal protein and omega-3 fatty acids rich health food are the main reasons for the growth of the industry. Because of the increasing demand, the industry is expanding and at the same time more intensive approaches are being followed for attaining higher yields. Currently aquaculture contributes more than 50 per cent of total fish production and in the coming years its contribution is expected to rise.
Among the causes of the loss of production, disease is the most serious one. It causes damage to the livelihoods of farmers, loss of job, reduced incomes and food insecurity. Thus, it is necessary to resort to the health management measures in aquaculture following sound scientifically proven principles and guidelines. Climate change, limited water sources and the growth drive are some of the challenges the farmers are facing today. It is advisable to focus on preventing the occurrence of disease rather than resorting to treatment measures. Prevention is always better than cure principle is highly relevant in aquaculture.
Implementation of better management practices (BMPs), genetically resistant or specific pathogen free (SPF) stock, dietary supplements, vaccine, probiotics, prebiotics, nonspecific immune stimulants, water disinfection biological control, antimicrobial compounds and movement restrictions are some of the best approaches in control of infectious diseases in aquaculture.Effective management of the environment is the key to prevent outbreak of diseases.
A single approach to prevent and control the aquaculture diseases is not successful alone. Rather a combination of different strategies may be adopted. Setting up a national or regional information exchange between farmers and other stakeholders including government agencies is necessary. Apart from this, surveillance of diseases and having disease specific diagnostic tests are very important to assure healthy fish. The government extension officers should be imparted trainings to update their knowledge base. More public private investments should be made to upgrade laboratories and testing facilities.