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National Aquatic Animal Health Plan

sturgeon The National Aquatic Animal Health Plan will allow for better prevention, control, and management of diseases in aquatic animals. Above, Dr. Andy Lazur displays a hatchery-reared Atlantic sturgeon, a subject of stock enhancement research in Maryland. [credit: NOAA Aquaculture Office]

The National Aquatic Animal Health Plan (NAAHP) was developed in response to the growing need for a coordinated government effort to ensure aquatic animal health. Officials from federal, state, local, and tribal governments have been working in partnership with aquaculture and other interested stakeholders for the last several years to develop the NAAHP. The NAAHP was released in 2009 and is available here.

What is the NAAHP?

The NAAHP is the summation of ideas on how the federal government, in collaboration with stakeholders, should develop policies, programs and potential regulations to address aquatic animal diseases in order to benefit aquaculture and aquatic animal resources in the United States.  Two primary drivers were the growing need to protect domestic commerce and resources and the advent of new health regulations by foreign governments that restrict the import of live and processed aquatic animals from the United States.

Who is implementing the NAAHP?

The federal agencies with primary responsibility for aquatic animal health are the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through its Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) through the NOAA Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies are leading the development and implementation of the NAAHP from the federal perspective and under the auspices of the Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture (JSA), a federal interagency coordinating group.  However, agencies recognize the necessity of partnerships and collaboration for NAAHP efforts to be successful.

What has happened to the NAAHP since it was made public?

Development of a National Aquatic Animal Pathogen Testing Network -- This effort will result in testing standards and oversight to those existing laboratories conducting testing for movement and surveillance purposes.  The intent is to increase the confidence for states, importers, and other stakeholders in the results from laboratories and in the health status of animals in movement.  One outcome will be greater confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to make assurances as to reporting of aquatic animal diseases and control the movements of pathogens around the U.S. and in international trade.

Increase use of information technology -- The federal agencies are evaluating commercial off-the-shelf IT programs that will facilitate international and interstate trade.  As any producer will tell you, the paperwork process to move live aquatic animals can be burdensome and time consuming.  Improved electronic services will facilitate efficient trade.

Establishment of a Federal Advisory Committee -- The NAAHP recommends the establishment of a Federal Advisory Committee. USDA has restructured its existing ‘Foreign Animal Disease Advisory Committee’ into an ‘Animal Health Advisory Committee’ under which subcommittees can be formed to address specific technical and scientific issues.  The establishment of an aquatic animal health subcommittee is a priority for USDA based on the recommendations of the NAAHP.  The full committee has been selected and held its first meeting January 20th and 21st, 2011.  The committee supported the formation of an aquatic animal health subcommittee in the near future.  It is hoped that selections for the subcommittee will be made by summer 2011.

Background

The need for a comprehensive national aquatic health plan has long been identified as a high priority issue by the federal Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture. Authorized by the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, the subcommittee is composed of representatives from the federal agencies that participate in, regulate, and manage aquaculture activities in the United States. In 2001, the subcommittee requested that the federal agencies responsible for managing the health of aquatic animals develop a national plan.

Following a series of regional stakeholder meetings, officials from the three main federal agencies responsible for U.S. aquaculture began work on co-authoring a draft plan with extensive input from stakeholders.

The draft NAAHP was approved by the three federal agencies and was made available for public review and comment in 2009. The NAAHP is a guidance document and not regulation.  The NAAHP is a "living" plan that is flexible to meet needs as they arise. The NAAHP will be updated every five years and will account for submitted recommendations.

For More Information

For more information, please e-mail Kevin Amos, the NOAA Aquaculture Program’s National Aquatic Animal Health Coordinator.