Veterinarians practicing aquatic animal medicine

The practice of veterinary medicine encompasses aquatic animals, including aquatic livestock and pets. Aquatic animal veterinarians in the United States provide care for animals and protect public health (i.e., diagnose disease, perform surgery, evaluate and recommend management procedures, and recommend treatment). Aquatic animal veterinarians are accredited by federal agencies to carry out programs for the control of disease and are licensed by state agencies under veterinary practice acts to diagnose disease, recommend treatment, and implement programs for the prevention, control, and treatment of disease in all vertebrate and invertebrate species. In the execution of these responsibilities, aquatic animal veterinarians are held to a high level of accountability and legal liability for their professional activities.

With their education in comparative anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, toxicology, epidemiology, surgery, therapeutics, and preventive and regulatory medicine, veterinarians’ familiarity with biosecurity, disease prevention and control, and the use and potential adverse effects of pharmaceuticals, biologics, and pesticides apply to aquatic animal species as well as terrestrial. Veterinarians are licensed to prescribe and dispense drugs for treatment of all animal species to relieve animal suffering and assure animal safety and efficacy of treatment. Veterinarians are also play a critical role in public health protection in maintaining a safe food supply and avoiding potential risks of drug residues and environmental contamination.

For terrestrial species, USDA-accredited veterinarians, state veterinarians, and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are the final authorities in inspecting and certifying the health of terrestrial species. Most countries also recognize these same certificates for aquatic species. In the spirit of international harmonization, the AVMA therefore supports the concept that certificates of inspection attesting to the health of aquatic animals should only be issued by USDA-accredited veterinarians, state veterinarians, and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

  • The AVMA recognizes the necessary involvement of non-veterinarians in producing information, such as diagnostic assay results, for issuing these certificates. The AVMA encourages systems that integrate veterinary and non-veterinary collaborators and will therefore actively work with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, aquaculture industry representatives, and others to promote effective and timely development and issuance of such certificates.
  • The AVMA also supports and will promote additional education of existing accredited private, state, tribal, and federal veterinarians to deal with aquatic animal health inspection and certification of aquaculture stock.
  • Finally, the AVMA recognizes the importance and encourages the development of uniform criteria for certificates of inspection attesting to the health of aquatic animals and certifying their disease status for intrastate, interstate, and international movement.

The practice of veterinary medicine encompasses aquatic animals. Consequently, the AVMA strongly supports the lead role of veterinarians in aquatic animal health for disease prevention and control. This includes but is not limited to appropriate diagnosis and treatment, managing welfare, maintaining a safe food supply, and issuing certificates of inspection for aquatic animal species for international, inter-state, and intra-state movement.