Evaluating and Understanding Fish Health Risks and Their Consequences in Propagated and Free-Ranging Fish Populations
Christine M. Moffitt, Alf H. Haukenes, and Christopher J. Williams
Abstract.—Fishery managers and resource conservationists are increasingly interested in understanding the fish health and disease risks of free-ranging fishes and whether propagated fishes or features and practices used at fish culture facilities pose a health risk to free-ranging populations. Disease agents are present in most both captive and all free-ranging fish populations, but the consequences and extent of infections in free-ranging populations are often difficult to measure, control, and understand. Sampling methods, protocols, and assay techniques developed to assess the health of captive populations are not as applicable for assessments of free-ranging fishes. The use of chemicals and therapeutics to control diseases and parasites in propagated fishes likely reduces the risk of introducing specific pathogens into the environment, but control measures may have localized effects on the environment surrounding fish culture facilities. To understand health risks of propagated and free ranging fishes, we must consider fish populations, culture facilities, fish releases, and their interactions within the greater geospatial features of the aquatic environment.