Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Seafood is a highly traded food commodity. Farmed and captured crustaceans contribute a significant proportion with annual production exceeding 10 M metric tonnes with first sale value of $40bn. The sector is dominated by farmed tropical marine shrimp, the fastest growing sector of the global aquaculture industry. It is significant in supporting rural livelihoods and alleviating poverty in producing nations within Asia and Latin America while forming an increasing contribution to aquatic food supply in more developed countries. Nations with marine borders often also support important marine fisheries for crustaceans that are regionally traded as live animals and commodity products. A general separation of net producing and net consuming nations for crustacean seafood has created a truly globalised food industry. Projections for increasing global demand for seafood in the face of level or declining fisheries requires continued expansion and intensification of aquaculture while ensuring best utilisation of captured stocks. Furthermore, continued pressure from consuming nations to ensure safe products for human consumption are being augmented by additional legislative requirements for animals (and their products) to be of low disease status. As a consequence, increasing emphasis is being placed on enforcement of regulations and better governance of the sector; currently this is a challenge in light of a fragmented industry and less stringent regulations associated with animal disease within producer nations. Current estimates predict that up to 40% of tropical shrimp production (>$3bn) is lost annually, mainly due to viral pathogens for which standard preventative measures (e.g. such as vaccination) are not feasible. In light of this problem, new approaches are urgently required to enhance yield by improving broodstock and larval sourcing, promoting best management practices by farmer outreach and supporting cutting-edge research that aims to harness the natural abilities of invertebrates to mitigate assault from pathogens (e.g. the use of RNA interference therapeutics). In terms of fisheries losses associated with disease, key issues are centred on mortality and quality degradation in the post-capture phase, largely due to poor grading and handling by fishers and the industry chain. Occurrence of disease in wild crustaceans is also widely reported, with some indications that climatic changes may be increasing susceptibility to important pathogens (e.g. the parasite Hematodinium). However, despite improvements in field and laboratory diagnostics, defining population-level effects of disease in these fisheries remains elusive. Coordination of disease specialists with fisheries scientists will be required to understand current and future impacts of existing and emergent diseases on wild stocks. Overall, the increasing demand for crustacean seafood in light of these issues signals a clear warning for the future sustainability of this global industry. The linking together of global experts in the culture, capture and trading of crustaceans with pathologists, epidemiologists, ecologists, therapeutics specialists and policy makers in the field of food security will allow these issues to be better identified and addressed.
Stentiford, GD; Neil, DM; Peeler, EJ; Shields, Jeffrey D.; and Small, Hamish J., Disease will limit future food supply from the global crustacean fishery and aquaculture sectors (2012). Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 110(2), 141-157.