Similar to other forms of agriculture, fish farms and other aquaculture facilities are constantly seeking to optimize their production abilities.
Aquaculture veterinarians are rather new roles in the industry important in helping fish farms and other businesses improve production efficiencies. Veterinarians monitor aquatic species health and quality and offer ways to keep diseases from impacting operations. In the United States, over 250 aquaculture veterinarians practice either individually or as part of an organization in both private and public entities.
In general, an aquaculture veterinarian works together with fish farmers and other aquatic species growers to optimize the health of the aquatic stock and address any issues that arise. Many veterinarians are now turned to for the monitoring of the health of aquatic species in fish farms and other operations. They are able to identify disease and develop a treatment or prevention plan much more quickly and efficiently than other disciplines. In particular, aquaculture veterinarians are legally able to prescribe certain drug treatments or medication that the average fish farm worker would not be able to. Many aquaculture veterinarians work with seafood inspectors and aquaculture technicians in developing treatment plans. Many of these tasks are no different than what an animal veterinarian would do for a cattle or hog farmer.
As the aquaculture industry seeks for more ways to optimize their practices, the ability to understand biological impacts on aquatic species populations becomes more and more important.
Aquaculture veterinarians are able to determine if the presence of bacteria or other microscopic organisms are detrimental to a specific stock. They are critical in determining if that stock needs to be destroyed or if a chemical treatment can be used to manage the situation and still provide a safe source of food for humans.
An aquaculture veterinarian generally needs a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine, along with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in some sort of aquaculture, biology or other science-related field.
Initial salaries for veterinarians range between about US$50,000 to US$90,000. Many aquaculture veterinarians are self-employed, while others work for a wide range of government agencies and aquaculture industry associations.
Aquaculture veterinarians must be able to work in a wide range of conditions, from laboratory settings to performing field analysis on all varieties of aquatic species. S/he must be willing to continue an educational process to stay up-to-date on the latest findings and research. The veterinarian must also be able to communicate findings in terms that the average aquaculturists would understand.