Feed the Future
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Fish Innovation Lab Director Discussed Aquaculture Biosecurity at Congressional Briefing

This post was written by Kristen Dechert with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish, and originally appeared on their website

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish Director Mark Lawrence discussed with lawmakers the risks of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in aquaculture at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC, on July 23.

The briefing, titled Aquaculture Biosecurity – The Invisible Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance, was jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Mississippi State University's Global Center for Aquatic Food Security.

The risk of AMR in the US stems from a heavy reliance on seafood imported from other countries—about 90 percent of seafood consumed nationwide.

“Although antimicrobial use is regulated in the US, regulations are not present in all countries, including some of the ones we import seafood from,” said Lawrence. “So even though we are being responsible with antimicrobial use in the US and monitoring for AMR, we can still be impacted because of our imports.”

Two members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation delivered opening remarks at the briefing: Senator Roger Wicker and Congressman Michael Guest. Following these remarks, Lawrence and five additional panelists gave short presentations about AMR in aquaculture, including its trade and security impacts, and shared country-level experiences from their work and research.

The goal of these presentations and the briefing was to inform and raise awareness about issues related to responsible antimicrobial use in aquaculture.

In the United States, licensed veterinarians use veterinary feed directives to assure appropriate antimicrobial use and to prevent development of AMR, explained Lawrence, who also is a professor of veterinary medicine with a specialty in fish-health research and diagnostics at Mississippi State.

He added that antimicrobial use in aquaculture and other farm animal systems is an animal welfare issue: “It is unethical to not treat animals who have a treatable infection and allow them to suffer.”

Compromised animal welfare and health also connects to economic health. With an export value of nearly $150 billion, fish is the most traded food commodity in international trade, and aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food-production sector.

“Losses from infection can economically impact farmers and potentially put them out of business, but if antimicrobial use is not regulated to ensure they are used responsibly, we increase the risk of AMR developing,” said Lawrence.

He added that responsible use includes a proper diagnosis of bacterial infection by a qualified fish-health diagnostician and producers following the prescribed schedule and dosing.

Understanding and preventing AMR and other risks associated with fish production and consumption are a focus of the Fish Innovation Lab, which conducts research for development to address food and nutrition security.

“Mitigating risk of AMR is important to prevent emergence of AMR bacteria that could make infections untreatable in both animals, including fish, and people,” said Lawrence. “Preventing AMR would increase food production and improve access to high-quality, nutrient-dense foods like fish worldwide.”

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