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  1. Science & Research

Aquaculture Research

Aquaculture (i.e., fish farming) is an important source of fish available for human consumption. Over 90% of the US supply of seafood is imported, and over half of the imported seafood is from aquaculture. Further, the growth of the US aquaculture industry has required the development of safe and effective drugs for treating fish diseases, as well as increased regulatory surveillance of aquaculture products. In response to these needs, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, Office of Research, conducts aquaculture research in a state-of-the-art facility. The primary research objectives are designed to assist the FDA in assuring that fish derived from aquaculture production environments, whether international or domestic, are safe for human consumption.

Research priorities explore the biodistribution, residue persistence, metabolism, effectiveness, and environmental effects of drugs and other chemicals used in aquaculture. Studies include

  • Developing disease models to investigate drug effects,
  • Pharmacokinetics studies,
  • Effectiveness testing,
  • Depletion studies of prohibited chemicals,
  • Development of methods to test antibiotic susceptibility of aquatic bacteria, and
  • Providing tissues incurred with drug residues for development of chemical detection methods.

The Aquaculture team also investigates the effect of drugs on the environment, non-target species, the pathogens associated with aquatic species and examines the development and transmission of antimicrobial resistance in both pathogens and environmental microbes.

The Aquaculture team also constructed, updates and currently maintains the Phish Pharm database: a searchable compilation of close to 600 articles that include data from 175 aquatic species (fish, shellfish, and more). Phish Pharm can be used to help design studies of drug metabolism and records can be filtered for rapid comparison of data among studies with different experimental conditions, such as water temperatures and salinity. This database is designed to aid investigators of drug metabolism in aquatic species as well as government and private organizations involved in the drug approval process.

The aquaculture program actively collaborates with scientists at other FDA centers and other outside agencies such as the USDA, the University of Maryland, Mississippi State University, Louisiana State University, and Ghent University, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The program has hosted college and fourth-year veterinary students interested in aquaculture and conducts hands-on training workshops for veterinarians and animal scientists designed to educate them about aquatic animal research.

Contact for Information

Dr. Charles Gieseker
Research Biologist
(240) 402-5402

Figure 1.

Representative fish species included in research at the CVM/OR Aquaculture Facility. A. Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar; B. Channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus; C. Hybrid tilapia, Oreochromis nilotica x O. aureus; D. Yellow perch, Perca flavescens; E. Largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides; F. Rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss; G. Hybrid striped bass, Morone chrysops x M. saxatilis; H. Goldfish, Carassius auratus. These species represent some of the species currently raised by the US Aquaculture industry.

Fish species at the CVM Aquaculture Facility. A. Atlantic salmon; B. Channel catfish; C. Hybrid tilapia; D. Yellow perch; E. Largemouth bass; F. Rainbow trout; G. Hybrid striped bass; H. Goldfish.

There are five main rooms in the CVM/OR Aquaculture Research Facility totaling approximately 5,200 sq. ft., as well as storage, mechanical/filtration, and support rooms. Incoming water from either a well or municipal supply goes into the primary filtration system and is stored in a 25,000 gal. water storage tank. Temperature is controlled by separate heat exchangers and chillers, which provide hot and cold running water to recirculating and flow-through aquaculture systems. Wastewater is sent to either two 20,000 gal. water holding tanks or two 10,000 gal. closed-system wastewater holding tanks.

Figure 2.

Representative holding systems at the CVM/OR Aquaculture Facility. A. flow through tanks, B. recirculating tank, C. dual recirculating tanks, D. Living Stream system, E. flow through tanks - isolation room.

Representative holding systems at the CVM/OR Aquaculture Facility. A. flow through tanks, B. recirculating tank, C. dual recirculating tanks, D. Living Stream system, E. flow through tanks - isolation

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