by MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA

Beef and chicken often come to mind when people think about protein. But with the world"s population growing, the need for more sources of protein like seafood increases too.

"Fish provide an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy fats," says Luc Grisez, PhD, Executive Director, Global Aquaculture Research and Development, MSD Animal Health.

"The challenge is to prevent deadly diseases that can compromise animal well-being and threaten entire fish farms and the food supply. Protecting fish from disease and controlling bacteria, viruses and parasites is vital to ensure consistent fish harvests, which contributes to fish health, welfare and safety."

Fish account for about 17 percent of all animal proteins and seven percent of all proteins worldwide. On average, fish provide about 3.2 billion people with almost 20 percent of average per capita intake of animal protein. In fact, China, Japan and the United States eat the most fish of all countries globally.

MSD Animal Health is one of the world"s leading developers and marketers of medicines and vaccines that help treat and prevent diseases, especially in salmon and tilapia. The company"s focus is to identify and treat specific aquaculture diseases, delivering both preventative and treatment options, and work with fish farms around the world to implement good farm management

practices and protocols to ensure cleaner and healthier fish. After all, fish health, welfare and safety need to be effectively

managed during the treatment cycle and at key points in the production cycle.

"Fish diseases are prevalent everywhere and they can disrupt production in an instant," says Chris Beattie, PhD, Executive Director of Aquaculture, MSD Animal Health.

"It"s important that we discover which diseases are present, how to maintain control, and how to effectively protect fish from future exposure."

Keeping fish healthy

Approximately 600 aquatic species are raised via aquaculture, according to the World Ocean Review Report. Keeping these fish healthy is no small task for fish farmers. Vaccinating early helps to reduce the need to treat with antibiotics when fish get sick.

Aquatic diseases pose a serious threat to the farmed-fish industry. Infected populations can cause harvests to dwindle, resulting in significant losses for producers. Some of the most common diseases among farmed tilapia worldwide are Streptococcus agalactiae and iniae.

Fish may receive vaccinations in a single-dose application, such as with an injection vaccine providing protection against several diseases in a single shot at an early stage in the fish"s lifecycle or through immersion or oral vaccine application.

For example, in salmon, the fish can be vaccinated during
the first year of life in the fresh-water phase, before they are transferred to the seawater phase of the farming cycle where they are likely to encounter the pathogens.

"We have responded to the emergency of pancreas disease in salmon with new multivalent vaccines designed for the farmer and less stress for the fish. Other innovations include an oral vaccine for the control of infectious pancreatic necrosis and

a convenient and effective in-feed antibiotic to control many common bacterial diseases," says Dr Beattie.

Biosecurity solutions

Working alongside the Aquaculture Industry Association and other concerned companies, MSD Animal Health believes that biosecurity measures can lead to numerous improvements in many kinds of fish farms.

"Biosecurity is a critical part of the many procedures and processes that prevent or minimise the transmission of infectious diseases and pathogens. It, often times, reduces and controls the overall pathogens in farms, ensuring better fish health overall," Dr Beattie says.

Reducing morbidity and mortality rates, ensuring healthier animals and better control of disease are just a few ways that biosecurity raises the standards on fish farms.

"Improving biosecurity standards can help to manage issues more effectively in aquaculture," Dr Beattie says.

From an economic standpoint, biosecurity can maintain a sustainable environment and help with overall fish health and welfare. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has adopted biosecurity as one of its priority areas, helping to promote, develop, and enhance a common strategy of food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry policy and management framework.

Science-based sustainability

In addition to vaccines and medicines to help keep fish healthy, MSD Animal Health provides technical support to farmers in
the main salmon and tilapia growing regions, where aquaculture helps feed the world. The company"s global technical service specialists train farm personnel to implement and maintain farming practices that will keep fish healthy today and in the future.

What does the future look like? The aquaculture industry is ripe for innovation with the integration of farming, technology, and sustainability.

"In fact, a key benefit of the fish industry is its sustainability beyond any other food production species," says Dr Beattie.

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