BR.20.019 – Improving biosecurity in marine aquaculture: disease exchanges and outbreaks in aquaculture and wildlife in an ecological context

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

Aquaculture is a promising source for maintaining human food security but it is increasingly recognised that diseases are one of the main obstacles for the sustainable growth of aquaculture. This does not only include detrimental effects of disease outbreaks on aquaculture production but also potential impacts on wildlife surrounding farms, with repercussions for nature conservation and restoration. In particular aquaculture practices conducted directly in the environment, such as shellfish and seaweed farming, are prone to extensive disease exchanges between farms and wildlife. This exchange can go both ways, with wildlife serving as reservoirs and as receivers for aquaculture diseases, and disease outbreaks can thus be best understood in an ecological context. Disease exchanges and outbreaks are expected to intensify through climate change as well as species introductions and they may also be altered by new aquaculture techniques such as large-scale offshore farming. However, our knowledge on disease exchanges between aquaculture and wildlife and on future disease risks in Dutch waters is very limited to date, despite plans to significantly expand aquaculture production. This initiative aims to investigate disease exchanges and outbreaks in aquaculture and wildlife in an ecological context in an effort to improve national aquaculture biosecurity now and in the future. The initiative will involve a diverse group of stakeholders from the Dutch aquaculture industry and marine wildlife conservation and restoration groups and a multidisciplinary team of researchers from applied and fundamental backgrounds will aim to: 1) inventorise pathogen diversity and quantify pathogen exchanges in aquaculture and wildlife, 2) identify drivers of disease outbreaks and future disease risks, 3) develop new pathogen detection and monitoring methods (e.g. metabarcoding), 4) design early warning systems for future disease outbreaks, 5) identify aquaculture and restoration practices preventing outbreaks, and 6) initiate capacity building in marine disease detection and monitoring in the Netherlands.


biosecurity, disease ecology, environmental impact, marine aquaculture, risk assessment, wildlife diseases


Organisation NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems (NIOZ)
Name dr. D. (David) Thieltges