Emergency Preparedness for Aquaculture Facilities

David Crosby, Fish Health Specialist
Virginia State University
Cooperative Extension Service
804/524-5620, Email: dcrosby@vsu.edu

Emergency/disaster preparedness is a fact of life in our society. It’s up to “you” to be ready. Are you ready for an emergency/disaster at your fish farm? If not, this handout will offer a few tips on being prepared.

The first thing that you must do is develop an emergency/disaster plan for your farm. If you already have a plan, review for any weakness that could exist. As part of this plan, you should have a fully equipped disaster kit. The most important part of any plan, during any emergency, is to take care of your family first before taking care of your aquaculture facility. 

In Virginia, fish farmers could be looking at hurricanes and ice storms to cause potential problems. Hurricanes produce wind and flood damages. Hurricanes and ice storms can result in an electrical loss for an indeterminate time. Each of these problems can be mitigated by proper planning and the pre-positioning and prior stocking of essential supplies and equipment. Just having a generator with sufficient fuel will reduce risk and mitigate the situation.

There are specific problems for ponds that should be given special attention. Ponds should have some mechanism to prevent escapement of fish or the induction of unwanted species due to flooding by a hurricane. Also, if you use electric aeration for your ponds, how are you going to provide aeration? Have an alternate means to aerate the ponds. Fish cages can be washed or blown away during this situation.

Another point to be made, if fish are being grown in a recirculating aquaculture system what actions are you going to take to prevent losses due to an electrical outage. Of course, you have a generator, but is it protected from flooding and is there enough fuel to run it for any length of time? These are just a few obvious things but overlooked in many cases.

After a disaster, there may be significant losses of fish that will have to be disposed of. Fish can be buried with an application of hydrated lime or taken for incineration, or if possible, taken to a rendering plant. Otherwise, you could not only have a potential health problem but an odor problem.

For more information concerning disaster preparedness for farms consult with your ANR agent or specialist.