Aquatic Animals

Importance of aquatic animals

Aquatic animals play an essential role in achieving a more prosperous and secure world, contributing to many aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular to the following:

More than 50 million of people find a source of income and livelihood in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors

Aquatic animals provide more than 3 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein thereby contributing to food security

Responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices are crucial to protect life below water

A safe international trade system of aquatic animals and their products based on the OIE Standards is a motor for sustainable development

Feeding the world

The supply of aquatic animals and their products for human consumption comes from either aquaculture (the farming of aquatic animals) or wild capture fisheries. About 50% of the global supply originates from aquaculture and close to 90% of this production is in countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The number and variety of aquatic animal species farmed globally is extraordinary. Whereas terrestrial livestock industries are based on a small number of species in two classes of vertebrates – mammals and birds – aquaculture covers hundreds of distantly related species from several phyla including arthropods (crustaceans), chordates (fish, amphibians, reptiles), molluscs (bivalves and gastropods), and echinoderms (sea cucumbers, sea urchins).

To satisfy the growing global demand for aquatic food, by the year 2030, its global production will have to double, with the majority coming from aquaculture. However, diseases continue to threaten aquatic animals, constraining this growth and causing major socio-economic and environmental impacts. The international trade in aquatic animals and their products can be a significant pathway for the spread of aquatic animal diseases, in particular considering that more than one third of the world’s production is traded internationally. Discover how you can keep aquatic animals healthy in the brochure.

How is the OIE protecting aquatic animals?

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.

OIE Aquatic Animal Health Strategy 2021-2025

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.

Acknowledging the need to build more sustainable aquatic animal health systems, the OIE 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.

Improving aquaculture productivity and sustainability

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).

Key facts
  • Human consumption of aquatic animals and their products continues to increase
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food-production sector in the world
  • Aquatic animal health contributes to preserving biodiversity, improving livelihoods and ensuring food security
  • The intensified production and high trade volumes of aquatic animals and their products can be a significant pathway for the spread of aquatic animal diseases
  • The OIE elaborates international standards for aquatic animal health and welfare of farmed fish, as well as for safe international trade

Aquatic animal health  

OIE international Standards: the key to improve aquatic animal health and welfare of farmed fish

Since 1995, the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code (Aquatic Code) provides international Standards for the prevention, detection and control of significant aquatic animal diseases as well as to ensure the safe international trade of amphibians, crustaceans, fish, molluscs and their products.

In May of each year, new or revised chapters are adopted by the OIE World Assembly of Delegates for inclusion in the OIE Aquatic Code, which is published annually (access to the online version).

The OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals (Aquatic Manual) provides a uniform approach to the diagnosis of the diseases listed in the OIE Aquatic Code as well as some other  important diseases. It describes the diagnostic methods that can be applied in aquatic animal health laboratories all over the world and chapters are regularly revised and updated as new information becomes available.

A new edition is published every 4 years but any updated or new chapters adopted by the World Assembly are made available on the online version.

The standard-setting process for OIE international Standards is responsive, science-based and transparent. Many actors are involved in their development including OIE Members, international experts and Specialist Commissions. In the case of the international Standards for aquatic animals, their development is overseen by the work of the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission.



Learn more about their development and the role of different actor’s in the process in this video.

Providing a window into the aquatic animal health situation

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 in order to prevent the spread of transboundary and emerging diseases. Access here to the OIE list of notifiable aquatic animal diseases.

Reporting information, improving trade!

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 (for more information refer to the technical disease card).

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 by 33 Reference Laboratories and 2 Collaborating Centres located around the world. Get an overview of their role here.

Aquatic Animals Commission / Meetings reports of the Commission

Improving welfare of farmed fish worldwide

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 animal welfare published in the Aquatic Code (and Terrestrial Code) in this OIE infographic on animal welfare.

In addition, an OIE Global Animal Welfare Strategy has been adopted to provide continuing direction and coordination of the OIE’s actions on this important topic. This strategy focuses on four pillars: 

  • Development of animal welfare standards
  • Capacity building and education
  • Communication with governments, organisations and the public
  • Implementation of animal welfare standards and policies

Access here to the OIE portal on animal welfare

Responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials

Use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals

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.

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).

These standards are available here:

The OIE has also published a ‘List of antimicrobial agents of veterinary importance’ that has been adopted by the World Assembly.

Global database on antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals

In the framework of the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, the OIE, supported by FAO and WHO within the Tripartite collaboration, has taken the lead to build a global database on antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals.

The OIE publishes an annual report on the use of antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals following the annual round of data collection sent to its Members. These reports include quantitative data reported by Members on antimicrobial agents used in aquatic food-producing animals.  Read here the last report.

‘We need you’ communication campaign

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in aquatic animals increase resistance risk, endangering both animal and human health and welfare. The OIE 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. Discover the tools to unlock key messages: the aquatic animal sector has also an important role to play in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Access here to the OIE portal on antimicrobial resistance
Scientific and Technical Review

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






Download here the GIFs in .mp4 format

Download here the video in .mp4 format

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Available in:    
‘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


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