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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Aquatic Animal Health Research » Research » Research Project #444531

Research Project: Bolstering Aquaculture Production Through Cost-Effective Water Quality Management

Location: Aquatic Animal Health Research

Project Number: 6010-32000-027-023-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2023
End Date: Jun 30, 2028

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of animal agriculture across the world. However, sustainable expansion and intensification of aquaculture are adversely impacted by issues related to aquatic animal health. Health issues on farms are often initiated or exacerbated by impaired environmental conditions and pollutants, such as harmful algal-derived toxins and anthropogenic chemicals (e.g., insecticides) used during sustainable expansion and intensification of aquaculture. As a result, a collaborative effort between Auburn University and the USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit (AAHRU) is urgently needed to develop new monitoring, detection, prevention, and control measures for pollutants to minimize fish/shellfish mortality, safeguard animal performance, and ensure product quantity and quality. For example, harmful algal blooms adversely impact aquaculture operations globally. Harmful algal blooms are occurring with increased extent and severity on domestic catfish and inland marine shrimp farms. These harmful algal blooms are documented to cause large-scale catastrophic losses of valuable catfish and shrimp, particularly in the summer months immediately prior to harvest. In Alabama alone, since 2015, mortality levels attributed to harmful algal blooms have surged to nearly 1 million pounds of catfish annually. Moreover, harmful algal blooms are expected to exert profound chronic effects such as inappetence/reduced feeding, thereby increasing the time to harvest, along with stress and immunosuppression that can potentially predispose fish to parasitic and bacterial disease. Additionally, anthropogenic pollutants due to the use of pesticides and other chemicals are anticipated to further aggravate the economic losses of catfish and shrimp in aquaculture, especially in a rapidly changing climate. Although the serious adverse impacts of harmful algal blooms and anthropogenic pollution have been realized, information and research studies are still largely lacking. Studies to unravel the inherent mechanisms controlling acute die-offs and the sublethal pathophysiological effects of harmful algal blooms, their toxins, and anthropogenic pollutants on the catfish or shrimp are particularly needed.

Personnel at USDA-ARS AAHRU and Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences in Auburn, Alabama, will coordinate the research, demonstration, and dissemination efforts. The project will focus on: (1) the individual and combined toxicology of algal toxins, pesticides, and other anthropogenic pollutants to aquatic animals; (2) environmental factors that control the production and release of algal toxins, pesticides, and other anthropogenic pollutants, as well as their toxic pathways and mechanisms; (3) improved monitoring and detection methods for these pollutants in aquatic environments; and (4) innovative engineered physical, chemical, and biological approaches to mitigate the economic losses from these pollutants in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Research results and plans will be made available to producers, extension professionals, and other interested stakeholders through web publications, field days, and commodity meetings and to the scientific community at large thorough popular press, peer-reviewed literature, and scientific conferences.