North Central Regional Aquaculture Center funds project to explore an AIS-HACCP certification

Assessment of individual aquaculture and baitfish operations can minimize the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species and safeguard their businesses.

The potential exists for aquatic invasive species (AIS), including the Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) virus, to spread to uninfested waters through the transport of wild harvested baitfish and aquacultured fish. Baitfish and aquaculture industries are diverse and complex, as are their risks of spreading AIS. Most industry segments pose no or very low risk of spreading AIS. To deal effectively and fairly with this potential vector, it is important to characterize the industry according to their risks of spreading AIS.

Without adequate risk assessment of individual operations, regulations could be imposed which would unnecessarily negatively impact the economy of these industries and still not effectively reduce the risk of spreading AIS. One approach to this problem is to apply the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept similar to that used by the seafood industry to minimize seafood consumption health risks. The advantages of this system are that it can effectively deal with a diverse industry, it has proven to be a good partnership between industry and government regulators and when properly applied is effective. The HACCP approach concentrates on the points in the process that are critical to the safety of the product, minimizes risks and stresses communication between regulators and the industry.

Increasing awareness of biosecurity principles in the aquaculture industry will help to reduce the risk of spreading existing and introduction of new AIS to North Central Region fish farms; and will serve to protect these farms against a number of other fish disease pathogens and AIS. While there are basic biosecurity measures that all fish farms can implement, considerations must also be given to the production method and species involved with the aquaculture facility.

There is a necessity to conduct additional AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity training as new personnel are in need of this training. In addition there will be the threat of new AIS and fish diseases that continue to make their way into the North Central Region. This new training effort will combine AIS-HACCP training with aquaculture biosecurity.

The AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity training program has been implemented through North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) funding over the last several years and many fish farms have adopted these procedures to ensure the safety of their products and operations from aquatic invasive species and fish diseases. There has been recent interest by the aquaculture/baitfish industry and regulators to develop some type of certification/verification program to ensure that AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity procedures are actually in place and working. Such a certification/verification program does not exist in the North Central Region and Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension and the University of Minnesota have received funding through NCRAC over the next two years to explore such a program and conduct additional AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity workshops.

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