July 15, 2004


 Aquatic animal position statement approved

Posted July 1, 2004

With the rapidly growing aquaculture industry, the need for therapeutic agents for preventing, controlling, and eradicating diseases in farmed, wild, and ornamental aquatic animals has grown. The need for guidance in this area has also increased. In response to this need, the Executive Board approved a position statement on aquatic animal therapeutic agents, on a recommendation of the Aquaculture and Seafood Advisory Committee, recently renamed the Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee.

The AVMA committee said it had heard of many alleged situations of inappropriate use or distribution of approved and unapproved, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, biologics, and pesticides used as aquatic animal therapeutic agents. Currently, only six drugs and 16 biologics are approved for aquatic animals. If Congress passes the Minor Species, Minor Use Animal Health Act, the situation may improve, but the consequent promulgation of appropriate regulations and the availability of new approved drugs may take some time. The increased number of diseases affecting farmed, wild, and pet aquatic animals has created an immediate demand by veterinarians and animal owners for therapeutic agents.

The new position statement provides initial guidance to veterinarians and others on the use of therapeutic agents in aquatic animals. Among other things, it instructs veterinarians who are selecting a treatment for an aquatic animal to consider the health of the animal to be treated and the biology of the target organism; the potential impact of the treatment on the production facility and non-target organisms in the surrounding environment; and alternative, non-chemical treatments. The AVMA suggests veterinarians consider these same principles when choosing a pesticide to treat an environment against external parasites.

The position statement also provides information on the future plans of the Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee. The AVMA, for example, will continue supporting the implementation of the MUMS legislation and participate in initiatives to obtain the approval of new therapeutics for aquatic animals. It will promote the provision of educational information for veterinarians, producers, and owners on relevant subjects related to aquatic animal therapeutics, including regulations concerning extralabel and prescription drug use and judicious use of antimicrobial drugs. The AVMA will also work with government agencies and nongovernmental entities to develop appropriate policies and guidelines with regard to aquatic animal therapeutics.

To obtain a copy of the position statement, individuals should contact Dr. David Scarfe, an assistant director in the AVMA Scientific Activities Division, at (800) 248-2862. Ext. 6634, or dscarfe@avma.org.