The elements of an integrated fish health program include acquisition of training and expertise in a broad range of scientific disciplines including: epidemiology, physiology, immunology, microbiology, toxicology, and genetics. While the Fish Health Biologist may not be required to perform all the specialized assays needed to evaluate these features of fish health, it is imperative that aspects of sample collection and interpretation of results be entirely familiar. In addition, an integrated fish health program includes developing networks with other fish health professionals within and outside of the Service who can provide special expertise, knowledge, or research capabilities needed for a particular project. This will include professionals in other agencies, universities, and the private sector.
An integrated fish health management approach recognizes the importance of facilities design, sanitation, nutrition, chemotherapy, monitoring, immunization and development of regulations for controlling the spread of infectious agents. Integrated fish health also emphasizes the aquatic ecosystem as the primary focus and recognizes that effects of artificial propagation, exotic species introductions, and habitat loss on the health of wild fish are significant areas of concern.
This holistic approach means that a Fish Health Biologist will have access to training, experience, and a network of highly trained specialists and researchers that can be brought to bear upon particular situations. This approach consists of more than hunting for infectious agents and documenting their presence or absence. It evaluates all aspects of the ecosystem that can alter the health of animals within that ecosystem. Integration across many disciplines is the great strength of this approach and will result in better recommendations to managers that will help maximize the well-being of all aquatic species within the ecosystems managed by the Service.
Integrated fish health management will provide the information needed to insure the health of aquatic organisms living in ecosystems managed by the Service. Hatchery managers, resource biologists, States, Tribes, and commercial sector will receive essential information to understand, evaluate, and solve aquatic health problems in both captive and wild aquatic environments.