Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species by aquaculture and baitfish operations

The baitfish and aquaculture industries have been proactive in preventing the spread of AIS through training programs and implementing HACCP plans that are specific to their industries.

At the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Michigan State University Extension / Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator, Ron Kinnunen presented a paper in a session on Live Bait Pathway. Kinnunen and his coauthor of the paper, Jeff Gunderson (Minnesota Sea Grant), are both Seafood HACCP certified instructors, and used this program to develop training materials to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) through baitfish and aquaculture operations.

The potential exists for AIS to spread to uninfested waters through the transport of wild harvested baitfish and aquacultured fish. Baitfish and aquaculture industries are diverse and complex, as are their risks of spreading AIS. Most industry segments pose no or very low risk of spreading AIS. To deal effectively and fairly with this potential vector, it is important to characterize the industry according to their risks of spreading AIS. Without adequate risk assessment of individual operations, regulations could be imposed which would unnecessarily negatively impact the economy of these industries and still not effectively reduce the risk of spreading AIS. One approach to this problem is to apply the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept similar to that used by the seafood industry to minimize seafood consumption health risks. The advantages of this system are that it can effectively deal with a diverse industry, it has proven to be a good partnership between industry and government regulators, and when properly applied it is effective. The HACCP approach concentrates on the points in the process that are critical to the safety of the product, minimizes risks, and stresses communication between regulators and the industry. The baitfish and aquaculture industries have been proactive in using the HACCP approach to prevent the spread of AIS by participating in training programs and implementing HACCP plans that are specific to their operations.

Personnel from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries and Oceans Canada also presented a paper that discussed how AIS-HACCP is a requirement for the commercial baitfish industry in Ontario. In addition, another paper at this conference presented by faculty from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff discussed how AIS-HACCP is a requirement for the Arkansas Certified Commercial Bait and Ornamental Fish Program.

Kinnunen and Nick Phelps (University of Minnesota) have received notification that a proposal they submitted to the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center will be funded to conduct additional Aquaculture Biosecurity/AIS-HACCP workshops in the North Central Region of the U.S. in the next two years. As part of this project, they will also be working with the baitfish/aquaculture industry and state regulators on exploring a third party verification program for AIS-HACCP.

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