New program being explored to minimize risk of invasive species in aquaculture, baitfish industries

Assessment of individual operations can reduce risk of spreading AIS and safeguard businesses’ economies.

An AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity training workshop is held at a Minnesota baitfish facility. Nick Phelps | University of Minnesota

An AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity training workshop is held at a Minnesota baitfish facility. Nick Phelps | University of Minnesota

The application of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach is found among many industries and business processes to ensure product safety. The aquaculture and baitfish industries are no exception because HACCP can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), including a variety of plant, invertebrate, vertebrate and pathogen AIS.

The baitfish and aquaculture industries are extremely diverse in the water source and production systems of produced and marketed forms of species found within the industries. While most industry segments pose no or very low risk of spreading AIS, adequate risk assessment of individual operations is encouraged to further minimize the risk of spreading AIS, which could negatively impact the economy of these industries.  

The AIS-HACCP approach is to prevent the spread of AIS while maintaining viable baitfish and aquaculture industries. The AIS-HACCP approach can be used to certify AIS-free products for those operations that choose to seek this certification. It can be used to focus attention on the segments of the baitfish and aquaculture processes that are most likely to pose a risk of spreading AIS. It also allows regulators to assess what happens in various baitfish and aquaculture operations and evaluate how potential hazards are being handled. With the HACCP approach, the emphasis is to understand the entire process and requires regulators and industry to communicate and work with one another on three primary purposes:

  • AIS-HACCP can restrict the spread of AIS while maintaining the economic viability of the baitfish and aquaculture industries. – This can be achieved, partly, through monitoring, recording and verifying efforts to reduce the risk of spreading AIS in individual operations.
  • AIS-HACCP can provide state and federal hatcheries with a means to satisfy public concerns regarding their role in the spread of AIS. – State and federal hatcheries must ensure that they are not responsible for the spread of unwanted species and are conducting their fish stocking efforts in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • AIS-HACCP can provide a mechanism by which private aquaculturists can certify their product as AIS-free. – Some states and watersheds require certified AIS-free bait and some organizations, agencies and private buyers would like to purchase certified AIS-free fish for stocking.

The AIS-HACCP approach has many advantages. It can deal, effectively, with a diverse industry and diverse risk factors. It can help avoid overly restrictive regulations and, if properly applied, can be effective at reducing the risk of spreading AIS through baitfish and fish stocking.

There has been recent interest by the aquaculture/baitfish industry and regulators to develop some type of certification/verification program to ensure that AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity procedures are actually in place and working. Such a certification/verification program does not exist in the North Central Region and Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and the University of Minnesota have received funding through Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development over the next two years to explore such a program and conduct additional AIS-HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity workshops.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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