Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI, USA
With the increased influx of toxic chemicals into the aquatic environment, veterinarians suddenly became confronted with the emergence of infectious diseases and extinction of valuable aquatic animal stocks. When contemplating aquatic species conservation, special emphasis is needed on the disease status of the brood stock, and its potential transmission to other animals and humans. Veterinarians are the only professionals trained to understand the full scope of animal diseases, their impacts, pathogenesis, implications on population dynamics, and zoonotic potentials. To date, veterinarians have been placed in the role of merely diagnostician in a supportive role to other professionals in the aquatic conservation field. Veterinarians should be at the center of the decision and management cog, not solely as a peripheral instrument that is often used inconsistently and improperly.
The role that veterinarians now play is somewhat self-imposed. Although veterinarians are trained biologists, their extensive knowledge in the more familiar "small animal medicine" makes them feel tentative to participate in the less known aquatic animals in general and poikilotherms in particular. The truth is that the extensive training in veterinary medicine makes veterinarians' understanding of pathology and pathogenesis, development and interpretation of diagnostic tests, determining what, if any, disease presence, and ultimately recommending management decisions that can impact large populations unparalleled by any other profession.
As a profession, veterinarians should be coordinating efforts with field biologists and marine scientists and, more importantly, designing the risk assessment studies that influence management decisions. Veterinarians just need the confidence that they are the ones trained in the holistic animal medicine approach, which can be adopted to develop sound, holistic aquatic systems management.