The aquaculture sector in Bangladesh is an important employer and a significant source of foreign exchange. In addition, it contributes significantly to food security due to the role of fish in peoples’ diets, the most important source of protein and micronutrients. However, infectious diseases represent an important barrier to sector development due to economic losses and vulnerability of smallholders. The aim of this study was to gain an overview of the impact of infectious diseases in the aquaculture sector, and to assess the usefulness and use of impact studies in decision making for animal health management and biosecurity governance in Bangladesh. A review of scientific and grey literature on infectious disease impact in different aquaculture systems was conducted and their methodologies and findings summarised. Subsequently, interviews with 28 stakeholders from the private and public sector were conducted to enquire about decision-making structures in animal health management. The data were analysed using the framework method to allow the development of themes, by using the information, experiences and opinions inductively obtained from interviewees, deductively through the reviewed literature. Results showed a substantial socio-economic impact of infectious diseases. The numerous stakeholders involved in the decision-making process explained that key barriers to effective aquaculture health management were insufficient resources to investigate and tackle infectious aquatic animal diseases, a dearth of legislation and capacity for disease surveillance, a reliance on reactive response, and a lack of impact and evidence-based approaches for prioritising problem-solving, commonly based on anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, communication among the multiple stakeholders involved was reported to be weak. This complex situation requires a multi-level response, which should span from strengthening the knowledge of farmers and professionals in the field to the improvement of surveillance and diagnostic systems. Improved systems along with evidence on disease impact could inform the prioritisation of diseases and resource allocation for disease control in Bangladesh. Further, this evidence needs to be used to advise decisions to have a true value, for which establishing and strengthening communication pathways and processes is critical to make systematic use of the information and improve animal health management. In the light of future threats to Bangladesh such as climate change, increasing population density and demand for animal source foods, it is crucial to strengthen animal health management systems to reduce livelihoods vulnerability, food insecurity and the likelihood of disease emergence.
Garza, M., Mohan, C.V., Rahman, M., Wieland, B. and Häsler, B. 2018. The role of infectious disease impact in informing decision-making for animal health management in aquaculture systems in Bangladesh. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.