Marine finfish aquaculture licence under the Fisheries Act - Appendix IV Salmonid Health Management Plan (HMP) of [corporate entity name]

[NB. This template is designed to facilitate the principles of HMPs applicable to a number of cultured finfish types or facilities - aspects common to: salmonids, nonsalmonids (eg. sablefish), marine open-water netpens, fresh open-water netpens, marine solid-wall arrays].

To complete, the Licence Holder will download a PDF copy of the form.

  1. fill-in names/items highlighted in blue,
  2. in some paragraphs, select or delete the applicable item in blue,
  3. remove the "Template" watermark,
  4. remove all yellow highlights, and
  5. adjust the footer (pages 2 to 12) to reflect the latest update.

Template updated May 2016. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Aquaculture Management Division (DFO- AMD) of British Columbia

1 Objectives, personnel & executive summary

The Health Management Plan (HMP) submitted to Fisheries and Oceans Canada as part of both the Marine and Freshwater/Land-based Finfish Aquaculture Licences serves three purposes: i) to outline good health conditions for cultured finfish raised by [corporate entity name] within the [marine] [freshwater/land-based] ecosystem; ii) to reflect a commitment by [corporate entity name] to comply with the principles, concepts, and required elements of fish health management when culturing finfish or gametes thereof in, or destined for, the marine environment, unless otherwise depicted by site-specific conditions of licence (i.e. culturing finfish in any open-water ecosystem) and; iii) to be used by [corporate entity name]’s facility staff for training and for day-to-day interaction with the fish, and by other fish health staff who are responsible for maintaining and monitoring good health status of the fish, and by the Licence Holder’s Health Management Team who makes decisions related to fish health.

This document forms one of two components of [corporate entity name]’s overall Health Management Plan (HMP): i) concepts; and ii) proprietary Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). As an appendix of the Finfish Aquaculture Licence, this document is the publicly available component and commits [corporate entity name] to ensure and maintain the health and wholesomeness of its cultured finfish. It also commits [corporate entity name] to abide by four key principles of the management of health:

  1. Characterizing the health status of the animal population
  2. Identifying and managing risks
  3. Reducing exposure to disease-causing agents
  4. Judicious application of chemicals and drugs

Functionally, this document applies to [corporate entity name]’s open-water containment arrays (net pens or solid wall) [and to open-water body broodstock-rearing facilities, when present]. A number of health concepts herein may refer to an SOP that coincides with other health concepts (eg. both biosecurity and fish handling may refer to the same net changing SOP (eg. SOPs of sections 3 and 7), common to both concepts. In addition, SOPs may be identified as either site-specific or practiced at all Licence Holder’s facilities.

The proprietary SOPs cited in this HMP document are initially submitted in their entirety to Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Aquaculture Management Division (DFO-AMD) for review and response. Annually thereafter a complete facility specific proprietary Health Management Standard Operating Procedures (HMSOPs), with sections modified in the previous calendar year identified, to be submitted for Departmental review and response. If no changes were made in the past calendar year the Department to be advised and no submission required.

Italics in this template depict tangible indicators of each concept easily verified and inspected].

1.1 Personnel duties and responsibilities

1.1.1 Veterinarian

[Corporate entity name]’s attending Veterinarian (either staff or private contract vet), in conjunction with fish health staff, has agreed to be responsible in overseeing matters of fish health management for [corporate entity name]. The Veterinarian is licensed in BC and fosters a lawful Veterinarian-client-patient relationship with the Licence Holder. The Veterinarian is responsible for disease diagnoses, interpretations, and writing prescriptions and is expected to exercise good medical judgment in matters of fish health. Veterinary contact information is posted and available to on-site fish health staff.

1.1.2 Fish health manager / technicians / team

Job descriptions for the Fish Health Manager, Fish Health Technicians, Fish Health Biologist and other positions are available at the Head Office of [corporate entity name]. This “Fish Health Management Team” refers to those persons, including the Veterinarian, who are responsible for major fish health decisions. The Team is responsible for identifying and managing risks in an attempt to maximize fish health.

1.1.3 Facility staff play a role

As per conditions of licence, all facility staff have read and abide by this HMP and relevant operational SOPs, signed-off, and practice appropriate hygienic procedures supportive of fish health. General farm staff may be assigned specific fish health duties from time to time.

1.1.4 Contact names and numbers

Contact names and numbers for key fish health personnel, including emergency numbers for regulatory authorities and services, are posted in readily accessible location(s) at each facility.

2 Health concepts & required elements

2.1 Biosecurity

Disease-causing agents (pathogens) may be spread by sick fish (wild or cultured) through the water, on shared equipment, other animals, or inadvertently by personnel, visitors or their personal gear. Entrance of potential pathogens is minimized by supporting an effective biosecurity “barrier” at each facility. Biosecurity measures apply to all personnel, visitors, divers, suppliers, regulators, vessels, and all equipment. Biosecurity has three main goals: keeping fish healthy, keeping pathogens out, and keeping disease from spreading. See the heading below: “Keeping Pathogens Out’ for operational SOPs.

2.2 Keeping fish healthy

Keeping fish as healthy as possible is critical in preventing disease from arising at the containment facility, and/or from spreading within a facility.
2.2.1 Single year-class farms

Containment arrays (i.e. production farms, not including broodstock holding facilities) ideally contain a single year-class of finfish livestock to minimize the transmission of pathogens between age classes of fish. In other words, an ‘all stock in; all stock out’ approach is encouraged. However, due to siting or production limitations [corporate entity’s name] is acknowledged by the Department to raise multi-year-class fish at this specific location.

2.2.2 Suitable rearing environment and security

[Corporate entity name] is responsible for ensuring a suitable rearing environment for the fish so they remain healthy. Requirements related to materials used in the construction and maintenance of rearing units provide security and minimize risk of potential escape or harm to fish. Active facilities are staffed daily or are locked, alarmed, secured or otherwise monitored to control entry and deter vandalism.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.2.3 Normal fish behaviour is observed

Fish are routinely monitored for signs of normal health and disease. All staff are familiar with normal fish appearance and behaviour. Early detection of altered activity is key to maintaining health and disease management so changes in behaviour and physical condition are logged and reported to facility managers upon discovery. To minimize stress and mortality, fish are held at cost-effective, species-specific densities.

2.2.4 Predator control

Predators include birds, other fish, and mammals. Reasonable, due diligent attempts are made to exclude predators from the facility and from interacting with the fish. As detailed and required in the conditions of licence [corporate entity name] follows mitigation procedures striving toward minimal predator interaction with the cultured fish.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.2.5 Feed and nutrition

The objective of good nutrition is to optimize fish health and growth so fish receive sufficient quantity and quality of feed. [Corporate entity name] has procedures in place for healthy, hygenic delivery of feed to fish. Proper storage of feed is essential to maintaining its nutritional quality. Feed is stored in structures designed to minimize spillage, spoilage, and wildlife’s access to feed. Feed is also protected from extremes of heat, sunlight and moisture.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.3 Fish handling techniques

2.3.1 Routine handling techniques

Corporate entity name]’s fish handling procedures - including types of equipment used and equipment maintenance - are designed to minimize stress, injury, escape and predisposing fish to disease. Observing fish during handling, and for a period after handling, ensures any negative effects are noted and steps are taken to mitigate impact. Staff minimize the time fish are exposed to stressful events such as crowding and out-ofwater events (i.e. moving, counting, grading, tagging, injecting, etc.). Each handling event is logged.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.3.2 Harvesting

If fish are being live-hauled to a processing plant measures are taken to minimize their stress during handling and transport. If fish are stunned and bled at the containment array they are stunned using humane procedures. Stress reduction is practiced to as great a degree as possible. [Corporate entity name]’s specific slaughter objectives and conditions vary yet specific harvest procedures (i.e. seine, brail, pump, etc.) are detailed in the SOP. Blood water is contained to the best of [corporate entity name]’s ability to minimize leakage. For specific diseases of concern, eg. IHN viral infections, special harvest SOPs apply.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.4 Monitoring water quality

[Corporate entity name] routinely monitors and records water quality parameters at its facilities to ensure optimal fish health. Monitoring varies between specific licence holdings depending on location and hydrographic specifics of the local environment yet dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and temperature monitoring are minimal requirements.

2.4.1 Contingency plans

[Corporate entity name] maintains a contingency of procedures in the event of deterioration of water quality and procedures vary depending on cause. Cessation of feeding is immediate. Water quality monitoring is enhanced to determine the problem and to estimate how long the problem may persist. Fish are monitored more closely for the duration of the event and will not be handled until water quality is deemed acceptable. Records of these events, findings and actions are kept.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.5 Keeping pathogens out

Reasonable and necessary precautions are taken to mitigate infections at the facility. Often pathogens indigenous to the ecosystem are difficult to exclude from open or semiopen ecosystems but the development of disease can be minimised or prevented.

2.5.1 Personnel / visitor / diver / supplier movement

Where possible, personnel and visitors avoid travel between [corporate entity name]’s containment arrays. If such travel is unavoidable, personnel and visitors adhere to all biosecurity procedures at each facility. Procedures are posted or explained to all visitors as part of the visitor log-in event. Suppliers are advised of containment array procedures and delivery-order in advance. Suppliers attending multiple facilities may be denied access. Staff will notify suppliers [and divers] if any specific disease of concern arises.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.5.2 Equipment / vehicle movement

Where possible, [corporate entity name] equipment is not shared between containment arrays. This includes fish handling equipment, vehicles, feeding, monitoring and other equipment. Equipment is kept as clean as possible at all times to prevent possible spread of pathogens; it is cleaned and disinfected after each use and re-stored to its proper location. Equipment drying is also practiced when possible. Items which must be used at more than one facility are subject to biosecurity and disinfection measures.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.5.3 Moving fish between facilities

Transferring fish between culture facilities is minimized; however, due to siting or production objectives [corporate entity’s name] may relocate fish provided required licences issued by the Introductions and Transfer Committee are obtained in advance, carried during transport, and filed at both source and receiving facilities. Particular care is taken to avoid undue fish stress, transmission of pathogens, or the possibility of escape. [Where well-boats are used, water quality is closely maintained and monitored to minimize stress during transport.]

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6 Monitoring fish health and disease

[Corporate entity name]’s fish are monitored at least once daily for any unusual behaviour, visible lesions or other signs of illness. Changes in behaviour and physical condition are reported to management or fish health staff. Water quality is also routinely monitored (as above).

2.6.1 Carcass collection

Mortality is natural in all populations. All efforts are made by [corporate entity name] to minimize infection and disease within a containment array. Optimal hygiene, disinfection, and carcass collection helps to maintain population health. Carcasses are collected, classified and recorded on a routine and frequent basis to minimize the potential spread of pathogens and to minimize the attraction of predators. If mass mortality arises, it is managed according to licence conditions and its specific SOP.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6.2 Carcass classification

Carcasses are examined for obvious cause(s) of mortality and/or signs of disease. As detailed and required in the conditions of licence, [corporate entity name] records and reports the classifications of mortality at least as follows, and the Fish Health Management Team of [corporate entity name] is notified of any unusual counts or types of lesions / mortality:

Diagnostic sampling is conducted as per [corporate entity name]’s procedures, or upon instruction by the Veterinarian, the Fish Health Management Team, or the Department (DFO-AMD), and recorded and reported as per licence.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6.3 Specific fish health procedure
2.6.3.1 Anaesthetizing and sedating fish

A variety of fish health procedures require that fish be sedated or anaesthetized for welfare and to minimize stress. Registered anaesthetics are obtained through a veterinarian. Anaesthetized fish are monitored closely at all times. Adequate water quality of the anaesthetic bath, in particular available dissolved oxygen, is maintained.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6.3.2 Sea lice monitoring (Marine licences only)

Sea lice abundance (i.e. counts) requires monitoring to make effective control and management decisions; requirements are detailed in conditions of licence.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6.3.3 Vaccinating fish

Vaccines are administered occasionally at containment arrays and form part of an integrated fish health management program. Vaccines are biologic substances that are stored (refrigerated), handled, and applied as per manufacturer’s instructions. [Corporate entity name] staff are appropriately trained prior to undertaking a vaccination procedure.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.6.3.4 Euthanasia

In the uncommon event where numerous fish are euthanized (eg. to facilitate specific fish measurements, sampling, mercy-killing, or culling), it is recorded and conducted in as humane a manner as possible, facilitating a rapid and irreversible loss of consciousness.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.7 Fish health records

Many records are computerized and form part of the integrated licence holder recordkeeping system. Backups are maintained. [Corporate entity name] provides adequate system training and documentation to authorized facility personnel, including data entry and report creation. Record-keeping, storage, reporting and [corporate entity name]’s Fish Health Management Team review is followed as per conditions of licence.

2.8 Fish disease outbreaks / emergency

A fish health emergency is any situation where the health of a fish population is suddenly at risk. This may be due to disease-causing agents (such as a pathogenic virus) or to abrupt water quality changes (such as plankton blooms, a toxin, or a sudden, severe decline in dissolved oxygen). Vigilant monitoring, recording and early detection is key to good management of health emergencies.

An outbreak is defined as an unexpected occurrence of mortality or disease. Not all outbreaks are infectious or fish health emergencies. Infectious diseases may differ in how contagious they are and therefore how easy or difficult they are to control. Rapid response is essential but will be determined on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the Veterinarian, the Fish Health Management Team, and/or by regulatory authority. Once an outbreak / emergency has been recognized, specific steps are followed. The objective is to keep the pathogen concentration (or load) as low as possible and to prevent spread of the problem within or off the facility. Biosecurity is enhanced.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.9 Escaped medicated fish

The requirements and procedures related to fish escapes are conditions of licence. In the unlikely event of large, medicated, cultured fish escaping from the containment array (i.e. those with drug residues), [corporate entity name]’s facility staff will immediately inform their Veterinarian and Fish Health Management Team who, in turn, will contact the Department Veterinarian(s) of DFO-AMD as soon as possible to facilitate the potential need of a general fisheries advisory and/or closure.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.10 Handling drugs and chemicals

Fish health and survival is sometimes optimized with judicious use of veterinary prescribed therapeutants. The Veterinarian attending [corporate entity name] maintains a veterinarian-client-patient relationship to facilitate diagnoses and prescription treatments. These decisions are taken considering both the welfare of fish and the ecosystem.

2.10.1 Medicated feed storage, administration and inventory

Medicated feed, if used, is stored in clearly marked bags, easily distinguishable from nonmedicated feed. The medicated feed is inventoried and recorded daily as the feed is offered to the fish according to prescription. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all medications used at the facility is on-site and readily accessible. [Corporate entity name] ensures that all chemicals are handled safely by appropriately trained staff, taking suitable precautions.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

2.10.2 Treatment records

As per conditions of licence specific and detailed records of medicated feed administration are kept on-site for the entire time the fish are present. In combination with inventory records, the fish groups that were treated are readily identifiable through treatment and withdrawal times. A copy of the treatment history will accompany the target fish to another containment array if the fish are subsequently moved. [Corporate entity name] does not harvest fish until they have cleared the withdrawal period prescribed by the Veterinarian. As per regulations and licence, when fish are delivered to a processing plant a Population Harvest Declaration accompanies harvest fish to ensure seafood safety and wholesomeness.

2.10.3 Chemicals and biologicals
2.10.3.1 Disinfectants, chemicals, and biologicals

Disinfectants and chemicals are stored in clearly marked containers. An MSDS for each disinfectant at the facility is on-site and readily accessible. [Corporate entity name] ensures that all chemicals are handled safely by appropriately trained staff, taking suitable precautions.

Biologicals include vaccines. Where applicable, these products are stored refrigerated and handled as per manufacturer’s instructions. A product insert for each vaccine at the facility is on-site and readily accessible.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3 Broodstock – Special considerations

Broodstock may be held at marine, brackish, or freshwater facilities. All fish health aspects of this HMP appendix apply (e.g., biosecurity, routine monitoring, treatments, emergencies, records) though they differ between saltwater and freshwater facilities. For example, water quality monitoring and contingency planning will differ between marine and freshwater broodstock sites.

3.1 Suitable rearing environment

[Corporate entity name] is responsible to provide a suitable, safe and secure rearing environment. Escape and predation prevention is essential.

3.2 Feed and nutrition

Broodstock often require specially formulated diets to meet their nutritional requirements prior to full maturation. Broodstock feeding strategies differ from those of production fish, particularly as they begin to mature and stop feeding. Proper storage of these diets is essential to maintaining their nutritional value; feed is stored in structures designed to minimize spillage, spoilage, and wildlife’s access to feed; feed is also be protected from extremes of heat, sunlight and moisture.

3.3 Biosecurity

[Corporate entity name] raises mature broodstock for a period of time longer than production fish. Where possible, designated staff and equipment are selected to interact with broodstock. Strict disinfection and hygiene procedures are in place. At freshwater facilities shared by other fish year-classes, biosecurity is particularly vital to prevent the transfer of pathogens from the mature fish to susceptible young fry.

To minimize two-way transmission of disease, mature broodstock are held at a designated facility or in a portion of a facility, removed from production or hatchery fish. Broodstock in freshwater may use a separate water supply.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.4 Selection and handling

Broodstock are handled individually at least once. Aquaculture facility personnel select broodstock for specific traits, and all broodstock are sorted by sex and for “ripeness”, i.e. whether or not they are fully mature. Handling individual brood fish is be done with care and with minimal stress to prevent negative effects on gametes (eggs and milt). Anaesthesia and sedation is used to minimize time and exposure to anaesthetic compounds, and to provide gentle handling and recovery.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.5 Medications

Broodstock are medicated for specific infections prior to maturation, particularly for those infectious pathogens that may be transmitted “vertically”, i.e. from parent to egg. The type and timing of applied medications is determined by [corporate entity name]’s Veterinarian and Fish Health Management Team. The medications are used according to prescription and are inventoried and recorded daily. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all medications used at the facility is on-site and readily accessible. [Corporate entity name] ensures that all medications are handled safely by appropriately trained staff, taking suitable precautions.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.6 Egg and milt collection

Egg and milt collection is conduction in as hygienic a manner as possible to prevent transmission of pathogens to other broodstock or progeny. Brood fish are anaesthetized and gametes are harvested. Females are euthanised in a humane manner. Males, if used for multiple egg takes, are monitored for recovery from anaesthesia and returned to holding unit(s). Proper hygiene and disinfection is practiced.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.7 Disease screening

Disease screening procedures are conducted at the time of spawning to mitigate risk of vertical transmission of pathogens to progeny. Tests performed are at the discretion of the Veterinarian but may include: screening for BKD (female broodstock) [and viral screening]. Additional testing may be performed at the discretion of the Veterinarian. Samples for disease screening are collected using aseptic technique. The location of progeny from sampled fish is tracked until such time the screening results are received and reviewed by the Veterinarian and/or Fish Health Management Team.

3.8 Egg disinfection

Eggs are safely disinfected following fertilization and water hardening. This disinfection is conducted either at the Broodstock facility or once the gametes enter the hatchery.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.9 Egg (and/or milt) transportation

Pre-arranged permits are required when eggs or milt are transported and permits must accompany the gametes during transport. Transport occurs in clean, labelled containers with secure lids. Strict disinfection and biosecurity procedures are followed to prevent transmission of pathogens from the broodstock facility to the hatchery.

Refer to proprietary SOPs in Section(s) ____ of [corporate entity name’s] SOP manual or Best Management Practices.

3.10 Identifying progeny

Female brood are labelled and corresponding eggs are clearly labelled to match (by date and parents or batch of parents).

3.11 Records

Records are kept for egg-take and broodstock pathogen screening. Records accompany each shipment of eggs from the broodstock facility to the hatchery receiving the eggs, whether destined for on-site or off-site incubation.