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3rd OIE Global Conference on Aquatic Animal Health ‘Riding the wave to the future’

Strengthening aquatic animal health programmes to improve aquaculture productivity and sustainability, and contribute to global food security.

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Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), 22 January 2015 – Aquaculture is recognised as the fastest growing food animal producing sector in the world, with nearly 50% of the global supply of aquatic animals for human consumption now derived from aquaculture. Furthermore, international trade in aquatic animals (from fisheries and aquaculture) accounts for 10% of total global agricultural exports.

However, the rapid growth of this sector brings with it new health risks, which are compounded by the increasingly globalised trade in live aquatic animals and their products. Aquatic animal disease outbreaks continue to cause significant losses in aquaculture production throughout the world and are having a major detrimental impact on national economies in some countries and regions.

The 3rd OIE Global Conference on Aquatic Animal Health was held at Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) from 20 to 22 January 2015. This Conference is one a series of global conferences that began in 2006 aimed at raising awareness of the importance of aquatic animal health and building a global framework for improving the management, prevention and control of aquatic animal diseases. The Conference brought together over 250 key players in the aquaculture sector from nearly 100 countries, including representatives of national Veterinary Services and Aquatic Animal Health Services, international experts from OIE Reference Centres, representatives of national, regional and international organisations, and representatives of other Competent Authorities.

“In a world where the global demand for protein is constantly rising and is set to double by the year 2050, aquaculture production has an increasingly important role to play in providing a source of high-quality protein and safeguarding global food security. We therefore have a duty to ensure the productivity of this key sector and protect it from new health threats”, stated Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE.

The OIE’s activities in the field of aquatic animal health are relevant to all regions of the world. The OIE provides an overview of aquatic animal diseases worldwide, including health alerts, through its online information system WAHIS. The Organisation also publishes intergovernmental standards designed to ensure effective surveillance, prevention and control of 27 aquatic animal diseases and safe international trade in amphibians, crustaceans, fish, molluscs and their products.

The Conference served as a reminder of the crucial importance of implementing these standards, both to safeguard aquatic animal health and to facilitate trade. To be able to implement them, the Veterinary Services and the Aquatic Animal health Services must have the appropriate capacity. However, with most aquaculture production originating in developing and emerging countries, there is also an on-going need to strengthen the capacity of all Member Countries in this respect. The OIE provides its Member Countries with support, notably through its PVS Pathway for evaluating the performance of Veterinary Services and/or Aquatic Animal Health Services. Implementation of the PVS tool specific to aquatic animals in Member Countries began in 2013.

“The discussions this week have served to achieve a greater awareness of the need for good governance of the Veterinary Services and Aquatic Animal Health Services, including their public and private sector components, and to encourage veterinarians, aquatic animal health professionals and other partners to play their part in ensuring that products derived from aquaculture are produced without posing a health risk to other animals or to humans. Emphasis was also placed on the need for rational use of antimicrobial agents in this sector”, explained Dr Bernard Vallat.

The importance of partnerships between the public sector and the various private sector stakeholders was underlined.

The participants put forward some twenty recommendations for improving aquatic animal health worldwide. These recommendations will be presented to the 180 OIE Member Countries at the next General Session, in May 2015.

The OIE is grateful to the Vietnamese authorities, the European Union and all the funding agencies, public and private donors and partners for their invaluable assistance and financial support. The OIE would also like to thank the speakers and participants, the Scientific Committee and the members of the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission for helping to make the event a success.

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