Introduction and research question
As we speak, more or less well-founded biosecurity plans are being created in aquaculture companies across Europe . New regulations require companies to control biosecurity in their production and area. Thus, c ompany managements, biologists, and operational personnel are making plans on how to achieve and maintain biosecurity in their production and activities. In the operational end, the plans must be interpreted and played out by the personnel. Since p lans are not always easy to comply with, the operational personnel have a major responsibility to make the good intentions embedded in the plans come into action.
That is why we in this study ask : What are the personnel’s considerations about routines and knowledge when biosecurity management is developed and played out?
This presentation will discuss results from an interview study of how biosecurity is handled in practice by biological, managerial, and technical personnel at Norwegian salmon RAS hatcheries and smolt transport. 18 persons involved in hatcheries and 11 persons in the well boat segment were interviewed in 2022.
The study is a part of the "Smittekontroll"/"Infection control" research project , funded by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (901734) and aimed at suggesting measures for predictable water treatment and disinfection in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS ) salmon hatcheries and smolt transport. The project studies microflora and technology, in addition to this study of operational routines.
Definition and earlier research
Biosecurity involves a set of management measures to reduce the risk of transmission, development and spread of infectious diseases, between populations, production zones, vessels, sites, and enterprises (Lillehaug et al. 2015). Diseases have been on the agenda for the aquaculture industry since its commercialization in the 1960s. Disease spread has been reduced through tech nological, organizational, and biological advances such as vaccines, disinfection systems, hygiene routines, and combat zones for diseases .
For increased biosecurity, one must identify risk factors , and use the risk assessments to make biosecurity plans (Lillehaug et al. 2015). Yet, further improvement has been hampered by limited knowledge, cost considerations, technology design, and increased professional and operational complexity (Larsen et al. 2020).
Transport of live animals is one of the most prominent risk factors for the spread of infectious diseases, and in aquaculture, wellboats are a significant route of infection (e.g. Murray et al., 2002) . Nevertheless, there is still limited knowledge about infection in and from wellboats. Biosecurity on wellboats is supported by e.g. technical standards, cleaning practices, and hygienic treatment of intake and discharge water from the vessels , but the practices are not compliant ( Larsen et al 2020). It has previously been described that wellboats operate with small margins which can lead to shortcuts (Fenstad et al. 2008).
There has been a significant development with the use of RAS, which require new practices and knowledge about biosecurity and disinfection routines at hatcheries. Different facilities have different practices for production and disinfection, resulting in different microbiota composition at plants (Dahle et al., 2021; Lazado & Good, 2021). In addition , there are major differences in mortality between hatchery facilities, giving opportunities for improvement, e.g. through routines and technology (Tørud et al ., 2019). Interview studies at RAS facilities, among others, have shown that employees consider some operational routines to be unwavering due to the plant’s design, but that many hatcheries still can improve their biosecurity routines (Tørud and Størkersen 2021).
Larsen et al. (2020) urge for more knowledge so it can be possible to establish a best practice and biosecurity analysis for RAS facilities and wellboats . As we see, both biological and organizational research is needed.
Discussion and conclusion
Our study has gone into the transport and RAS segment, where the research gaps are deep, which influence the biosecurity management.
The interviewed personnel in this study describe how they work to manage biosecurity. They have an array of descriptions of how measures are made, used, and collaborated around , and how biosecurity relates to the job they are there to perform . Some consider routines and procedures to be clear, and they perform their work without doubts. Still, the majority express concerns around their biosecurity measures, and find the knowledge base to be uncertain and the intention behind biosecurity plans difficult to meet.
Altogether, the interview finding s illustrate how b iosecurity management is based on biological knowledge, but dependent on knowledge-strength, technology, investments, production routines, regulatory demands, habits, and other organizational conditions. In that sense, biosecurity is similar to other values that organizations need to control – like safety, quality, and ethics. B iosecurity also includes several sciences, like biology and natural sciences, that interact with a line of organizational conditions. This requires scrutiny and attention moving forward.
The increased use of the term biosecurity illustrates an awareness of this dependency in the aquaculture industry. Currently, many think of biosecurity as health studies, but it is also an organizational study object. Some of the biological foundations of biosecurity are well-researched and agreed upon, while others are either unknown, uncertain, or debated, causing trouble for risk assessments and the trustworthiness of biosecurity plans. To manage problems of diseases, one needs more biological knowledge, but also to utilize it in management and regulations, in a practical and enforceable way.
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