05 May 2013

Proposed Cut to Critical Fish and Wildlife Service Program—What AFS Members Can Do Now

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The President’s FY 2014 Budget has been released, and proposes a withering cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)’s Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership (AADAP) program.  The AADAP program provides critical and unduplicated services to the fisheries community, and efforts are underway to encourage decision-makers to reconsider the proposed cuts in light of the negative effects they would have on fisheries science and management.

Fisheries professionals use a suite of drugs to accomplish fisheries management objectives and deliver public and tribal trust responsibilities.  Field biologists need to use sedatives to protect themselves and the fish they handle when collecting population assessment data and completing fisheries management objectives.  Hatchery biologists need therapeutic drugs to combat disease outbreaks, spawning aids to encourage fish to reproduce in captivity, and marking agents to allow hatchery fish to be differentiated from wild fish after stocking.  Whether to maintain health and fitness of fish or facilitate laboratory or field-based research and management activities, as described in a recent AFS Policy Statement, the absence of suitable drugs, “jeopardizes fishes, fisheries, fish culture, research, and poses considerable risk to those involved in these activities” (AFS 2011).  Fish drugs include commonplace chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, but it is illegal to use such products unless they have passed the rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) animal drug approval process.  The AADAP program is the only program in the U.S. fully dedicated to fish drug approval research and ensuring critically needed drugs are available to fisheries professionals.  USFWS leadership in this area is critical because the Service itself is a major end-user of aquatic animal drugs, the need for safe and effective drugs is nationwide, and without public-sector assistance economic incentives are insufficient to encourage drug sponsors to pursue aquatic animal drug approvals in the United States.  The President’s FY 2014 Budget proposes $400,000 in funding cuts and reducing the AADAP program’s size by 3 FTEs (view the budget here:  http://www.doi.gov/budget/appropriations/2014/upload/FY2014_FWS_Greenbook.pdf).  The proposed cuts would effectively terminate the AADAP research program, and with it, the drug approval process in the U.S.  Although the AADAP program works with many partners to generate data in support of drug approvals, without the leadership and wide-ranging expertise of the AADAP program, the availability of safe and effective aquatic animal drugs will continue to be a limiting factor in the fisheries disciplines.  

Efforts are currently underway to communicate the importance of the AADAP program and its many services and deliverables to decision-makers.  Interested AFS members may wish to join this effort, and tell Congress just how important fish drugs and AADAP are to the fisheries community.  For more information, please contact Jesse Trushenski  at saluski@siu.edu for guidance.  NOTE:  IF YOU ARE A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE, YOU CANNOT COMMENT ON THE PRESIDENT’S BUDGET, EXCEPT IN A STRICTLY PERSONAL CAPACITY (I.E., AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN).

AFS (American Fisheries Society) 2011.  Policy Statement on the Need for Immediate-release Sedatives in the Fisheries Disciplines.  Available at:  http://fisheries.org/docs/policy_statements/policy_34f.pdf.