Aquatic Ecosystems

Comment on this policy

The AVMA recognizes the pressing need for effective actions, based on sound science and coordinated among all relevant stakeholders, to ensure the future health of aquatic animals and the ecosystems that support them. The AVMA believes that veterinarians, with their education and experience in the application of science in the field of integrated health management, can and should play a pivotal role in addressing this need. The recommended actions are grouped under the three general areas of sustainability, education and coordination.

1. Sustainable harvest and conservation of aquatic animal resources

The AVMA supports resource conservation and utilization that minimizes negative impacts on the health of aquatic animals and the ecosystems that support them.

Actions needed are:

  • Promoting and increasing the veterinarian's involvement, role and responsibility in managing aquatic ecosystems and watersheds, in ensuring the biosecurity of aquaculture systems, and in maintaining the health of captive and free-living populations of aquatic animals;
  • Recognizing and supporting sustainability as a measure of ecosystem health including support for development of sustainable domestic aquaculture and fisheries resource extraction
  • Opposing specific aquatic animal management practices that have proven negative impact(s) on aquatic animal health, population levels or welfare.

2. Targeted education for veterinary professionals

The AVMA supports veterinary education and training and broader access to information on aquatic animal health and aquatic ecosystem health.
Actions needed are:
  • Inclusion of aquatic animal and aquatic ecosystem health as components of the curricula of colleges of veterinary medicine and increased opportunities for veterinarians to undertake aquatic animal health research programs as a component of post-graduate education;
  • Expanding opportunities for presentations on aquatic animal and/or aquatic ecosystem health as a component of scientific sessions during the annual AVMA convention;
  • Increasing collaboration among scientific organizations and associations that are active in the research and promotion of aquatic animal health;
  • Encouraging organizers of national, regional and local veterinary conferences and continuing education meetings to include more presentations addressing aquatic animal and aquatic ecosystem health.
  • Including educational programs involving aquatic animal and aquatic ecosystem health in continuing education approved by State Veterinary Boards for maintenance of veterinary licensure;

3. Coordination of federal, state, regional and municipal legislation, regulations and policies, with the input of relevant stakeholders, to ensure maintenance of the health of aquatic animals and the aquatic environment

The veterinary profession has an obligation to be actively involved in contributing to positive change toward collaboration and cooperation on aquatic ecosystem health.

Actions needed are:
  • Providing support for science-based legislation and regulations that protect clean water and endangered, threatened or sensitive aquatic species;
  • Communicating with government and relevant stakeholders and the general public to promote cooperative efforts that benefit aquatic animal habitats and establish new protected habitats, in both freshwater and marine environments.