By B Acosta
Aquaculture in Southeast Asia has grown rapidly especially during the last two decades, but due to irresponsible transfer of aquatic species, particularly the farmed stocks that allegedly carried pathogens, a large number of infectious diseases have emerged threatening the sustainability of aquaculture in the region. The Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) or currently known as Acute Hepatopancreatic Necrosis Disease (AHPND) is one of the diseases that has resulted in heavy mortalities of cultured shrimp in several Southeast Asian countries. Recognizing the pressing need for a concerted action to address this problem and to support the initiatives related to enhancing food security and safety within the ASEAN Member States, SEAFDEC/AQD and DA-BFAR (Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) partnered in convening the Regional Technical Consultation on EMS/AHPND and other Transboundary Diseases for Aquatic Animal Health Management. The regional consultation was funded by the Government of Japan through the ASEAN Secretariat (Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund).
Over 60 delegates representing the technical experts, ASEAN Member States (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam) and Japan, regional and international organizations (FAO, NACA, OIE and SEAFDEC) and private sector gathered in Best Western Plus Antel Hotel, Makati City, Philippines last 22-24 February 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to take stock of the status of EMS/AHPND and other transboundary diseases affecting shrimps in Southeast Asia and define research and policy directions to improve aquatic animal health and ensure sustainability of aquaculture operations. During the Opening Ceremonies, Atty. Asis Perez, Undersecretary for Fisheries, Department of Agriculture and Director, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources formally welcomed the participants. Dr. Kom Silapajarn, SEAFDEC Secretary General and Mr. Kenji Terada, First Secretary of Agriculture, Embassy of Japan (Philippines) delivered their messages. In his message to the participants, SEAFDEC Secretary General stressed the need for effective surveillance measures to alert the countries of any disease occurrence. He added that an existing ASEAN mechanism which could be utilized for this purpose is the ASEAN Network of Aquatic Animal Health Centres, based in Thailand. Introductory Remarks were given by Dr. Felix Ayson, SEAFDEC/AQD Chief.
The technical session began with a review on the status of EMS/AHPND and other emerging diseases in farmed shrimps in ASEAN Member States and Japan. Information were obtained on the prevalence of disease, diagnostic methods employed, approaches used (both successful and failed approaches in managing the disease), scientific research done and research gaps. The highlight of the meeting was a workshop where participants, in a plenary session, identified priority research areas for collaboration and formulated interventions and recommendations to address the important issues that were raised during the earlier technical sessions. Effective border control, biosecurity capacity of countries to prevent entry of pathogen, compliance with good aquaculture practices, emergency preparedness, contingency planning, and sharing of information and experiences among countries affected and not affected by the disease are just some of the important interventions and recommendations emphasized by the participants during the discussions.
The session culminated with a presentation and discussions on policy recommendations that would be presented by AQD at the 48th Meeting of the SEAFDEC Council scheduled to be held in Viet Nam on 4-8 April 2016. The policy recommendations are expected to be endorsed by the SEAFDEC Council for approval of the ASEAN during the meeting of the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group for Fisheries.
The consultation ended with a renewed commitment of the ASEAN Member States, regional and international organizations and other partners in the region to enhance collaborative efforts and strengthen partnerships in addressing issues on aquatic animal health, particularly on present and emerging transboundary diseases.