It is well known that the transboundary spread of infectious diseases is aided by trade in live animals and the consequences can be severe if, as a result, a pathogen broadens its host range to new species. Trade in aquatic animal species is increasing, and aquaculture is also expanding to meet the growing human population’s demands for animal protein. Moreover, it is clear that aquaculture has created potential new pathways by which pathogens and diseases may be introduced or spread to new areas. The risk of pathogen transfer is generally considered greater for the movement of live aquatic animals than for the movement of processed and dead products. The currently available health standards support the concept of minimising the risk of disease and pathogen incursion while, at the same time, avoiding unjustifiable or unnecessary impediments to trade. Nevertheless, the international spread of diseases through the movement of animals still occurs, despite these standards. Consequently, this paper considers the evidence linking international trade in aquatic animals and aquatic animal-derived products with the transmission and spread of diseases. The authors provide examples of pathogen transfer leading to disease spread and consider the situation of emerging diseases, as well as the need for a holistic approach to deal with risk-based threats at their source.

Aquatic animal – Aquatic animal disease – Health standards – International trade – Transboundary pathogen.