Ornamental fish comprise the third largest sector of the multi-billion dollar aquaculture industry in the United States. In 2002, the value of ornamental fish imports into the United States was estimated at forty-one million dollars. As the aquaculture industry grows, there is increasing awareness of the vulnerability of the industry to introduced diseases from foreign imports. While exotic disease introductions have already had major impacts on food production aquaculture, until recently, the ornamental fish trade has remained relatively unaffected. However, the 2002 outbreak of spring viremia of carp (SVC), previously undocumented in the United States, at a koi hatchery in North Carolina and in Cedar Lake in Wisconsin, has numerous current and potential consequences for native fish, natural resources, the ornamental fish industry, and food production aquaculture. SVC is listed as a notifiable disease, by the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), in the International Aquatic Animal Health Code. The potential economic and environmental impacts associated with the discovery of SVC have caused the current policies governing ornamental fish aquaculture to come under scrutiny. Presently, there are no inspection or quarantine requirements for ornamental fish imported into the United States. There are multiple agencies that have jurisdiction over the aquaculture industry, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, and state agencies. All of these agencies, industry stakeholders, and the public may be involved in the development of regulations for the importation of ornamental fish. Under the Farm Bill 2002, the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has statutory ability to regulate ornamental fish. The extent that APHIS will be involved in ornamental aquaculture has not been determined. In March 2003, APHIS announced that approximately $11.7 million had been authorized to implement an SVC control and indemnity program for farm-raised fish in the United States, to assist the states of North Carolina and Virginia with epidemiology, surveillance, and indemnification. Zoological parks and aquariums may be impacted by regulatory changes that are implemented in the aquaculture industry.
The authors thank the following individuals for their insights and resources: Robert Bakal, Warm Springs Regional Fish Health Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Ruth Francis-Floyd, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Animal Sciences, University of Florida; Myron Kebus, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection; Otis Miller, Jr. and Jill Rolland, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA; Dallas Weaver, Scientific Hatcheries; Brent Whitaker, National Aquarium, Baltimore; and Roy Yanong, Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, University of Florida.