A Model Interagency Approach to Fish Health: A Unique Collaboration of Federal, State, University and Private Entities
The state of Florida is unique not only in its diversity of aquatic animal species in production but also in its collaborative approach to fish health management. Florida aquaculture is one of the state's largest agricultural animal industries, with a farm gate value estimated at approximately $99.5 M in 2001. That same year, Florida had 531 certified aquafarms reporting sales with almost 43% of total sales coming from tropical fish. In addition, the United States is a primary importer of freshwater and marine fish species, many of which enter the U.S. through Florida fish distributors. Florida's export of aquatic animals has increased over the past years with the number of USDA endorsed health certificates increasing from 389 certificates issued in 2001 to 412 in 2002. For these reasons, Florida has developed a successful and effective interagency approach to fish health, disease diagnosis and prevention. The interagency model has developed with significant input from the aquaculture industry at both the state and national levels, and effectively addresses concerns related to overall aquatic animal health, management and regulation. The model incorporates representatives from the federal, state, university and private sectors. In Florida, the infrastructure for this relationship began at the University of Florida (UF) in the late 1980s when strong extension ties developed between the tropical fish producers and university faculty. This working relationship culminated in the establishment of the UF Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL) in Ruskin, FL. The TAL also now houses federal officials representing USDA-APHIS Veterinary and Wildlife Services. The state of Florida is also a forerunner in its progressive establishment of industry-driven best management practices and in its provision of USDA-approved laboratories and veterinarians for the diagnosis of fish, shellfish and crustacean infectious diseases. Additionally, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) promotes the stock enhancement of fresh and marine fish species, and works closely with veterinarians and fish health professionals in the state. University, state and federal fish health veterinarians and professionals are working together to complete a number of long term and short-term goals. Some of these goals are: 1) to harmonize fish health programs in Florida with the National Aquatic Animal Health Plan (NAAHP); 2) to provide information seminars on topics of importance to the industry, such as Spring Viremia of Carp (SVC) and Koi Herpes Virus (KHV also known as Koi Virus (KV)); 3) training sessions on fish health certification for veterinarians, other fish health professionals, and the industry; and 4) completion of a working list of aquatic animal health veterinarians in the state. The collaborative efforts of these four entities: federal, state, university, and, private sector individuals, in collaboration with leading aquaculture commodity groups have allowed Florida to be a leader in the field of aquatic animal health by providing high quality fish health management programs and support to its aquaculture industries.