Monitoring emerging diseases of fish and shellfish using electronic sources.
New and emerging fish and shellfish diseases represent an important constraint to the growth and sustainability of many aquaculture sectors and have also caused substantial economic and environmental impacts in wild stocks. This paper details the results of 8 years of a monitoring programme for emerging aquatic animal diseases reported around the world. The objectives were to track global occurrences and, more specifically, to identify and provide advanced warning of disease threats that may affect wild and farmed fish stocks in the UK. A range of electronic information sources, including Internet newsletters, alerting services and news agency releases, was systematically searched for reports of new diseases, new presentations of known pathogens and known diseases occurring in new geographic locations or new host species. A database was established to log the details of key findings, and 250 emerging disease events in 52 countries were recorded during the period of study. These included 14 new diseases and a further 16 known diseases in new species. Viruses and parasites accounted for the majority of reports (55% and 24%, respectively), and known diseases occurring in new locations were the most important emerging disease category (in which viruses were dominant). Emerging diseases were reported disproportionally in salmonid species (33%), in farmed populations (62%) and in Europe and North America (80%). The lack of reports from some regions with significant aquaculture or fishery production may indicate that emerging diseases are not being recognized in these areas owing to insufficient surveillance or testing or that these events are being under-reported. The results are discussed in relation to processes underpinning disease emergence in the aquatic environment.