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Infectious diseases affect marine fisheries and aquaculture economics

January 8, 2015

Seafood is a growing part of the economy, but its economic value is diminished by marine diseases. Infectious diseases are common in the ocean, and here we tabulate 67 examples that can reduce commercial species' growth and survivorship or decrease seafood quality. These impacts seem most problematic in the stressful and crowded conditions of aquaculture, which increasingly dominates seafood production as wild fishery production plateaus. For instance, marine diseases of farmed oysters, shrimp, abalone, and various fishes, particularly Atlantic salmon, cost billions of dollars each year. In comparison, it is often difficult to accurately estimate disease impacts on wild populations, especially those of pelagic and subtidal species. Farmed species often receive infectious diseases from wild species and can, in turn, export infectious agents to wild species. However, the impact of disease export on wild fisheries is controversial because there are few quantitative data demonstrating that wild species near farms suffer more from infectious diseases than those in other areas. The movement of exotic infectious agents to new areas continues to be the greatest concern.