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Aquaculture practices and potential human health risks: Current knowledge and future priorities

November 01, 2008
Environment International

Amir Sapkota, Amy R. Sapkota, Margaret Kucharski, Janelle Burke, Shawn McKenzie, Polly Walker and Robert Lawrence

Annual global aquaculture production has more than tripled within the past 15 years, and by 2015, aquaculture is predicted to account for 39% of total global seafood production by weight. Given that lack of adequate nutrition is a leading contributor to the global burden of disease, increased food production through aquaculture is a seemingly welcome sign. However, as production surges, aquaculture facilities increasingly rely on the heavy input of formulated feeds, antibiotics, antifungals, and agrochemicals. This review summarizes our current knowledge concerning major chemical, biological and emerging agents that are employed in modern aquaculture facilities and their potential impacts on public health. Findings from this review indicate that current aquaculture practices can lead to elevated levels of antibiotic residues, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, persistent organic pollutants, metals, parasites, and viruses in aquacultured finfish and shellfish. Specific populations at risk of exposure to these contaminants include individuals working in aquaculture facilities, populations living around these facilities, and consumers of aquacultured food products. Additional research is necessary not only to fully understand the human health risks associated with aquacultured fish versus wild-caught fish but also to develop appropriate interventions that could reduce or prevent these risks. In order to adequately understand, address and prevent these impacts at local, national and global scales, researchers, policy makers, governments, and aquaculture industries must collaborate and cooperate in exchanging critical information and developing targeted policies that are practical, effective and enforceable.