National aquatic animal disease surveillance programme launched in India

The Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying and Fisheries (DAHDF), Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has approved a national project on aquatic animal disease surveillance for five years and funding of INR 320 million (about US$ 6 million) has been allocated through the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB). A national consultation on aquatic animal disease surveillance held last April 2012, attended by NACA, made a strong recommendation for the need for a national program on surveillance. This was followed up by the development of a project proposal by the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBGFR) in consultation with national partners and NACA. The project was presented to the Ministry and was formally approved in February 2013 and the NBFGR was chosen as the nodal coordinating agency.

The national surveillance program will be undertaken by 21 leading national institutions in close collaboration with respective state fisheries departments covering fourteen key Indian states with passive and active surveillance in more than 100 districts. Shrimp, carp, catfish, tilapia, ornamentals, cold water species, freshwater prawn, and molluscs will be covered. During the first 6-12 months of the project, the focus will be on collection of baseline information and passive surveillance from the selected districts of fourteen states. The project will gradually evolve to include active targeted surveillance based on the requirements and purpose.

At the national level a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has been constituted to oversee the implementation of the project and NACA is included as one of the special invitees for TAC meetings. At the project implementation level, NBFGR has constituted a core scientific committee (CSC) to assist NBFGR in running the project and NACA has been included as one of the members of this core scientific committee.

A one day pre-launch consultative meeting was held on 27th May 2013. This event was attended by 41 delegates representing 21 leading national institutions of ICAR (CIBA, CIFA, CIFE, CICFRI, NBFGR, CMFRI, DCFR) and Fisheries colleges of State Agricultural Universities (Mangalore, Tuticorin, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Srinagar, Ratnagiri, Verawal, Orissa). The delegates were the designated PIs or Co-PIs of the national project. Welcome remarks were provided by Dr Jena, Director of NBFGR. Introductory remarks on surveillance and implementation mechanisms were provided by Dr CV Mohan of NACA. The Executive Director of NFDB provided remarks on the need to consider environmental issues in the national surveillance work. Dr Gajendragad from PD-ADMAS provided brief insight into surveillance in livestock sector in India and the importance of national database. Formal opening session was followed by a detailed presentation by the Director of NBFGR on the project, proposed activities, role of partner institutions, expected outputs, allocation of budget, logistics and administrative matters. This was followed by presentations from 21 institutions covering the following topics:

  • State, district and Ecosystem to be covered for surveillance by the institution
  • Background on aquaculture in the identified state
  • Species to be covered
  • Diseases to be covered
  • Extent of surveillance (passive and active) to be carried out
  • Capacity of the institution
  • Linkages with the respective state fisheries departments
  • Budget requirements
  • Other issues of relevance to the national program

Formal launch workshop of the project was held on 28 May 2013. Key dignitaries included Dr Ayyappan (Director General of ICAR and Secretary of DARE), Dr Meena Kumari (Deputy Director General of Fisheries, ICAR and NACA Governing Council Member), Dr Vishnu Bhat (FDC, DAHDF), Dr Madhumitha Mukherjee (Executive Director, NFDB), Dr Jena (Director, NBFGR) and Dr CV Mohan from NACA. This launching event was attended by 41 delegates representing 21 leading national institutions of ICAR and Fisheries colleges of State Agricultural Universities.

Dr Jena provided the welcome address. Under the Guest of Honour, Dr CV Mohan from NACA provided a speech on importance of national surveillance for disease management, compliance to WTO SPS, enhancing credibility of the nation among trading partners and stressed the fact that surveillance is the basis for all disease management strategies. Dr Mukherjee of NFDB highlighted the various programs of NFDB and their support to state fisheries departments for health management. She urged the project to work closely with the state fisheries departments. Dr Vishnu Bhat, Fisheries Development Commissioner from the DAHDF explained how the project came about, and stressed the need to consider mechanisms to sustain the program after five years by the respective state fisheries departments. He also appreciated the role of NACA in supporting the national surveillance initiative from the very early stages of project conceptualization. Dr Meena Kumari expressed her happiness that the project has finally come through and now the country has a program to support national surveillance. She called upon all the ICAR and SAU institutions to ensure commitment to the project. Dr Ayyappan in his address expressed happiness and thanked NBFGR and NACA for pursuing the concept and finally getting the project approved. He also thanked the Joint Secretary of DAHDF for his sincere efforts in supporting approval of this project and funding through NFDB. Dr Ayyappan elaborated on the importance of national surveillance, need for building our credibility amongst trading partners, lessons we can take from the livestock sector in India, lessons we can draw upon from Asia Pacific, and the need for strong commitment from all the national institutions. NACA’s role in regional aquatic animal health management was appreciated and NACA was asked to continue to assist the project by provision of technical assistance and in supporting capacity building activities.

A national training workshop on the national surveillance program for aquatic animal diseases was held at the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Luck now, India, 17-20 September 2013. The workshop was attended by 46 delegates representing 21 leading institutions of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, namely CIBA, CIFA, CIFE, CICFRI, NBFGR, CMFRI, DCFR; the fisheries colleges of the state agricultural universities of Mangalore, Tuticorin, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Srinagar, Ratnagiri, Verawal and Orissa.

The work commenced with a formal opening ceremony with the lighting of the lamp. Welcome remarks were provided by Dr Jena, Director of NBFGR. Remarks were also delivered by Prof. Kenton Morgan (University of Liverpool), Dr Jiraporn (Thailand Department of Fisheries). Dr Vishnu Bhat, FDC, provided presidential remarks and Dr P. Ponnia provided the vote of thanks.

Lectures provided by the technical experts covered concepts and principles of surveillance, the role of epidemiology, sampling issues, risk analysis, and experiences from Thailand and from the Indian livestock sector.

The highlight of the workshop were group planning exercises to develop comprehensive, cost-effective surveillance systems for different scenarios using abstract models concerning to avoid introducing species-specific or geographic biases. Over the four days the scenarios became progressively more interesting and complicated. Participants presented and discussed their solutions.

The feedback from participants was very encouraging. For most of them the workshop was a new learning experience and they appreciated the scenario solving exercise through which they learnt the concepts and principles of surveillance. The contribution of Prof. Kenton Morgan and Dr Jiraporn was highly appreciated by all concerned.

The networking and collaboration resulting from this project would be of significant value for aquatic animal health management in the country. Through the implementation of this project, the national surveillance team will be able to respond to disease emergencies and also provide scientific information to the national Competent Authority for taking informed policy and trade related decisions.