Aquaculture is currently the fastest growing food producing sector in the world and for two decades now; it contributes to nearly 50 percent of the global food fish supply. Taking into consideration the increasing global population, aquaculture is expected to contribute further to meet the increasing demand for fish in the coming decades. As an example, annual value of global seafood industry is about USD 100 billion. Furthermore, the world’s demands for high quality aquaculture products make control of biological risks, including diseases and pathogens which could affect human, animal and plant communities increasingly important. Good Biosecurity measures are vital to maintaining healthy animals, to reducing the risk of acquiring diseases in aquaculture facilities and to harvest high quality good yield. Aquatic biosecurity could be described as a system of standardized protocols and measures to deal with biological risks in aquatic environments (such as the risk of diseases, genetic pollution and invasive species). Regarding the Pacific region, the main aims of aquatic biosecurity are to safeguard human health, the environment, and national economies. Good biosecurity requires a holistic and an extremely proactive approach between nations and territories. The Pacific region, with many comparative advantages regarding fisheries and aquaculture, but at the same time, with highly unique, bio-diverse and sensible aquatic environments, needs the establishment of a regional framework on biosecurity, which will support Nations to develop their economies in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
It should be noted that in the specific case of this Regional Strategy on Aquatic Biosecurity, the broad biosecurity concept will be mostly focused on two of its components: aquatic animal health management and species introductions and translocations.
Efficient aquatic animal health management and sustainable use and control of introduced aquatic species (both at National and Regional level) require strict border control measures, adequate quarantine protocols to prevent the introduction of pathogens, pests and invasive species, accurate knowledge on diseases and pathogens present in the region, suitable disease surveillance strategies in order to detect and control disease outbreaks, efficient contingency plans and skilled extension services, among others.
To conclude, Pacific Island country and territories have an obligation to maintain biosecurity through their commitments to international agreements such as the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The aquaculture sector contributes greatly to improving food and nutrition security and increasing livelihoods within the Pacific region; but it should be noted that most aquatic animals successfully cultured in the region are introduced (e.g., Nile tilapia, common carp, blue shrimp), and new species introductions are being pursued for further aquaculture development. On the other hand, aquatic animal diseases are a significant threat to the sustainability and productivity of aquaculture in the region. Potential threats for trans-boundary diseases spreading cannot be overlooked.
The geographical isolation of countries, the limited availability of specialist expertise and resources, and narrow prospects for development of specialist capability across multiple disciplines are some of the significant challenges that PICTs face in implementing sustainable aquaculture development and effective biosecurity governance programmes.
Both the relevance of aquatic biosecurity for Pacific Island Nations and Territories and feasible approaches to develop a regional pathway to deal with it has been addressed at a number of regional fora:
In October 2012 SPC and FAO jointly held a regional workshop specifically on “aquatic biosecurity”, where regional and national needs and expectations on aquatic animal health and aquatic species introductions were addressed.
Thirty-five participants representing 17 PICTs attended the workshop. Prior to the workshop, detailed questionnaires covering aquatic animal health and aquatic species introductions were sent to each PICT to assess major country needs in these areas. The synthesis of these country needs assessments has defined the main components of the Regional Aquatic Biosecurity Strategy. Major constraints regarding aquatic biosecurity in the region were identified as a lack of: (i) dedicated funding, (ii) specific policy, (iii) dedicated infrastructure, (iv) capacity, (v) appropriate legislation, (vi) enforcement, (vii) public awareness, and (viii) coordination between agencies. Detailed information on the SWOT analyse carried out by delegates during the 2012 Regional Workshop is provided in section 4.4 of the present Strategy.
The Regional Strategy on Aquatic Biosecurity has been based on major outcomes derived from the following sources of information:
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