National Aquatic Animal Health Program

Canada's reputation for high quality fish and seafood depends on protecting wild and farmed aquatic animals against serious infectious diseases. International concern for aquatic animal health has increased over the last decade as the trade in wild and farmed fresh fish and seafood product has grown worldwide and with it the increased risk of transferring serious diseases to new areas.

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Canada is obliged to implement an aquatic animal health program that meets the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards recognized by the WTO. In 2005, Canada’s National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP) was implemented to be a co-delivered program between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the lead regulatory and administrative authority for NAAHP under the authority of the Health of Animals Act and the Health of Animals Regulations, with DFO providing the diagnostic testing, research, and scientific advice to support the program. Specific infectious disease agents affecting fish, molluscs, and crustaceans are covered under NAAHP.

Although the aquatic animal pathogens regulated by the NAAHP pose no health risk to humans, they can be potentially devastating both economically and ecologically to wild fisheries and aquaculture operations. The NAAHP enables Canada to certify fish and seafood exports free of pathogens of international importance and to require similar health certification from countries wishing to export fish and seafood to Canada. This prevents the transfer of pathogens of international concern from Canada to other countries, but also protects Canada from the introduction of pathogens not found here.  CFIA has developed a list of reportable and notifiable pathogens affecting aquatic animals for Canada; some of the listed aquatic pathogens are endemic throughout Canada, while others only occur regionally or are exotic (foreign) to Canada.  The OIE also maintains a list of diseases of international concern as well as a diagnostic manual that describes the recommended methods for OIE-listed diseases for use by aquatic animal health laboratories around the world.

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