Aquatic Animals

Importance of aquatic animals

Human consumption of aquatic animal products is greater than ever before. Today, aquatic animals are the main source of protein for billions of people worldwide, and demand is expected to increase. To satisfy this demand, aquatic animal production will need to double by 2050, with most of this growth coming from aquaculture. Yet, aquatic animal diseases threaten the sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector and, consequently, our food supply. This threat is shared and requires coordinated actions by the OIE and its Members, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to protect and improve aquatic animal health worldwide.

Aquatic animal health programmes are essential to ensure sustainable production systems. Veterinarians, aquatic animal health professionals, and other actors play a crucial role in ensuring the production of aquatic animals that does not jeopardise their health or welfare and of aquatic animal products that are safe for human consumption and appropriately certified to meet international trade requirements. The OIE is constantly seeking to raise awareness on the need for good governance of Veterinary Services and Aquatic Animal Health Services (both governmental and private sector).

OIE Aquatic Animal Health Strategy 2021-2025

The OIE acknowledges the need to build more sustainable aquatic animal health systems, and as a result, launched its first Aquatic Animal Health Strategy in May 2021, at the 88th General Session. This Strategy will improve aquatic animal health and welfare worldwide, contributing to sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security, thereby supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Discover the Strategy, its objectives and specific activities, as well as how you can contribute.

Aquatic animal health and welfare  

How is the OIE protecting aquatic animal health and welfare?

The OIE provides international Standards for the improvement of aquatic animal health worldwide. Recommendations published in the OIE Aquatic Code should be used by the Competent Authorities of importing and exporting countries for early detection, reporting and control of pathogenic agents in aquatic animals and to prevent their spread via international trade in aquatic animals and their products, while avoiding unjustified sanitary barriers to trade. The Aquatic Code also includes standards for the welfare of farmed fish, and the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals.

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The use of farmed fish for food or any other purpose carries the ethical responsibility to avoid unnecessary suffering of these animals. It is also a critical relationship between welfare and health aquatic animals. The OIE has developed welfare standards for farmed fish that cover transport, stunning and killing for human consumption and killing for disease control purposes. Find the standards on aquatic animal welfare published in the Aquatic Code.

Access to the OIE portal on animal welfare

The aquatic animal sector has also an important role to play in the fight against antimicrobial resistance

Responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials
Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in aquatic animals increase resistance risk, endangering both animal and human health and welfare. The OIE has developed international Standards in the Aquatic Animal Health Code on the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals, and on monitoring programmes for antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It has developed a communication campaign to explain the actions that the different actors from the animal health sector can take to use antimicrobials prudently and responsible and implement the OIE international standards. The OIE has also published a ‘List of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance’ that has been adopted by the World Assembly.

Responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals is important to ensure public health, food safety, aquatic animal health and production, and biodiversity and environment protection.

Access here to the OIE portal on antimicrobial resistance

Providing a window into the aquatic animal health situation
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Reporting information, improving trade!
The OIE also provides information on the aquatic animal disease situation worldwide –including disease alerts – through the online World Animal Health Information System (OIE-WAHIS). This information is important for Member Countries to enable them to act as soon as possible to prevent the spread of transboundary and emerging diseases. Access here to the OIE list of notifiable aquatic animal diseases.

With the increase in aquaculture and the global trade of aquatic animals and their products, there is a risk that diseases will spread to new geographic areas and new diseases will emerge. Learn in this infographic about the importance of reporting information on aquatic animal health through the OIE-WAHIS platform and how it can help countries to control diseases and ensure safe international trade.

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Annual report for wildlife: a win-win investment!

Considering the open environments in which aquatic animals often live, some diseases can also cause significant negative impacts on wild populations: for example, 96 % of the fire salamander population in the Netherlands died after an outbreak of B. salamandrivorans in 2010. This disease can have significant impacts in wild populations (including extinction) in many amphibian species and is a serious threat to biodiversity. Disease surveillance in wildlife is essential to collect data and enable better responses to these threats. Read about the benefits of the WAHIS-Wild annual report for wildlife in this infographic.

Strengthening Aquatic Animal Health Services through the OIE PVS Pathway

The OIE PVS Pathway is a continuous process aimed at sustainably improving the compliance of a Member’s Veterinary Services or Aquatic Animal Health Service with relevant OIE international Standards.

The first edition of the ‘OIE Tool for the evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services and/or Aquatic Animal Health Services (AAHS)1’ (PVS Tool: Aquatic) was published in 2013. PVS Evaluation missions assist a Member to establish its current level of performance, to identify gaps and weaknesses in their ability to comply with OIE international Standards, to form a shared vision with stakeholders (including the private sector) and to define priorities and carry out strategic initiatives. Learn more about the OIE PVS Tool: Aquatic

1. In some countries the Veterinary Services are the Competent Authority for Aquatic Animal Health Services while, in others, other agencies of government hold this responsibility.

Building national capacities

Each OIE Member Country is represented by a national Delegate to the OIE. Delegates are encouraged to nominate a national Focal Point for Aquatic Animals. This Focal Point is responsible for supporting the Delegate to participate in the standard setting process and to fulfil the country’s obligations as an OIE Member (e.g. disease notification and compliance with OIE international Standards). The OIE has established training programmes to support the capacity building of the national Focal Point for Aquatic Animals. Learn more about the focal point for aquatic animals terms of reference.

Providing an international network of aquatic animal experts

The OIE global scientific expertise in aquatic animal health is composed of 33 Reference Laboratories and 2 Collaborating Centres located around the world. Get an overview of their role here.

Multimedia resources

This page provides access to a range of useful information on OIE activities in aquatic animals. Please, feel free to use and disseminate this information.


Benefits of aquatic animals are infinite

Aquatic animals are under threat


Aquatic Animal Health in WAHIS

Annual report for wildlife: a win-win investment






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‘We need you’ communication campaign

Discover here the communication tools to raise awareness on antimicrobial resistance in aquatic animals


Aquatic Animal Health Programmes: their benefits for global food security

Guide for Aquatic Animal Health surveillance

Bulletin 2012-2: Health of aquatic animals

OIE Global Conferences on Aquatic Animal Health

Collaboration, Sustainability: Our future; Santiago, Chile, 2019.

Riding the wave to the future; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 2015.

Benefits for global food security; Panama City, Panama, 2011.

Shared responsibility and stronger commitment at all levels; Bergen, Norway, 2006