2014 Print
Aquaculture Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
1890 Extension Funding | Agricultural Systems
Kentucky | Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program | 1890 Institutions Region
Impact Statement:
Aquaculturists must maintain the health of their fish and the quality of their water in order to make a profit. There is a need for a fish disease diagnostic laboratory able to diagnose aquaculturists’ fish for pathogens and water quality problems, and to recommend proper treatment. It is also important for the lab to be directed by a fish pathologist certified to do diagnostics and inspections. Fish health inspections are required before fish can be transported and sold across state lines (and sometimes even within certain states); a lab that can perform these inspections needs to be available to aquaculturists. Also, having diagnostic capabilities available to university researchers and government fish & wildlife personnel is advantageous for maintaining researchers’ studies and for keeping fish populations healthy for fish & wildlife’s stocking efforts. There is also a need to assess the lab’s effectiveness in diagnosing problems and recommending treatments in order to maintain and/or improve the quality of service and accuracy. Additionally, using such a lab as a forum for relaying best management practice information to clientele, including safer occupational safety on-farm practices is beneficial to the lab’s users.
During this impact period, 72 fish disease cases and 25 water quality testing cases were performed at the Kentucky State University College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems Aquaculture Division’s Fish Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. In addition, seven (7) fish health inspections at the Diagnostic Lab were performed. Of the 72 disease cases diagnosed, 28 were from private growers and the others were from universities and other governmental agencies. While interacting with Diagnostic Lab clients, the State Extension Specialist for Aquaculture Dr. Robert Durborow (American Fisheries Society Certified Fish Pathologist, #57) was able to share Best Management Practices with them, helping clients to adopt practices that are economically and environmentally sound as well as safer for the farm owner and his/her family and employees. Also, a KSU, CAFSSS master’s graduate student collected Diagnostic Lab survey data on the Lab’s effectiveness in diagnosing and recommending treatment.
Accurately diagnosing diseases and recommending appropriate treatments has an approximate value of $3000 per case to private fish producers, so these 28 cases saved the aquaculture industry in Kentucky and surrounding states approximately $84,000.00. The non-private cases helped university researchers to successfully complete their research projects and helped state fish and wildlife agencies to successfully produce sufficient numbers of fish for stocking public waters. In a high profile case during spring 2014, about 500,000 silver carp died suddenly in the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley dam; Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources enlisted help from the KSU Fish Disease Diagnostic Lab, and it was determined that an environmental collapse in dissolved oxygen and supersaturation of nitrogen in the water, in conjunction with a high number of large carp crowded below the dam, was responsible for this fish kill. 
Water quality samples submitted to the Laboratory helped farmers and pond owners know how to treat their bodies of water to maximize fish growth and survival and prevent establishment of aquatic weeds. Using an estimated value of $2000 per water quality case, the 25 cases would have a value of approximately $50,000.00. Additionally, the 7 fish health inspections (which are now routinely required for shipping live fish into many states) would ordinarily cost fish producers about $3000 each, saving Kentucky growers about $21,000.00. Immediate savings to Kentucky residents benefiting from these services most likely exceeded $155,000.00. State and federal governments require that the person collecting and certifying for inspections be certified (as either a Fish Pathologist or an Aquatic Animal Health Inspector) by the American Fisheries Society or be an accredited veterinarian. Dr. Robert Durborow, KSU Fish Disease Diagnostic Laboratory director, is an AFS Certified Fish Pathologist (#57). 
Clients also benefited economically from adopting Best Management Practices (e.g., stocking and feeding at recommended levels, and marketing to proper outlets). Also benefitting were the environment potentially affected by the aquaculture practice and the safety record of the farming operation. Emphasis on farm safety increases the health, well-being and quality of life of those working on the farm. It is also beneficial to the profitability of the farm: avoiding lost work time, unnecessary law suits and time-consuming workers compensation issues. Diagnostic and treatment success analysis by KSU M.S. graduate student John Kelso is still underway; data will be presented at the Annual AFS Fish Health Section Conference at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY in July 2015, and a M.S. thesis will be written and published.   
Robert M. Durborow
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