Aquatic Animal Health and Production


Aquatic Animal Health and Production

The Aquatic Animal team led by Prof St-Hilaire has obtained funding, through the Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund administered by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, to support veterinary services, research and education for the aquaculture industry in Hong Kong.

The project entitled “Improving Fish Health and Production in Hong Kong” is a two-year research extension and veterinary service programme which complements the existing AFCD Fish Health Inspection Programme. It addresses three major challenges facing the Hong Kong aquaculture industry: i) disease control, ii) a lack of aquatic animal veterinary support, and iii) consumer food safety concerns associated with certain strategies to mitigate against disease outbreak. This project also includes a strong fish health educational programme to disseminate fish health information to farmers and increase the veterinary fish health capacity in Hong Kong.

Our outreach plan involves training new veterinarians and delivering continuing professional development courses for existing veterinarians to increase their knowledge of how to improve the health of aquatic animal species. It will also provide workshops for the aquaculture industry, and publish research findings in open source peer-reviewed journals. Our veterinary service is based on the needs of the local aquaculture industry consisting of some 1,000 farms.

The project deliverables include the creation of a pharmacy stocked with aquatic animal veterinary products for the industry to purchase under veterinary supervision. The research component of this proposal focuses on improving treatment strategies for infectious diseases affecting the Hong Kong aquaculture industry. In the first year, treatments for ectoparasite infections in salt-water fish species will be assessed. Research in the second year will be based on the needs identified through our veterinary service and our assessment of the AFCD disease database. At the end of this 2- year project, we will provide an assessment, including a cost-benefit analysis, of the veterinary extension programme and make recommendations for the long-term sustainability of an Aquatic Animal Veterinary Service for Hong Kong.

The Aquatic Animal team supporting this project includes: Dr. Stephen Chan, Dr Kwok Zu Lim, Dr Giana Gomes, Prof Sophie St-Hilaire, Mr Aaron Leung and Ms Sandy Cheng. 

The contact number for the aquatic animal veterinary service is : (852) 5596 0777


Assessing novel technology to reduce bacteria in aquaculture systems

Prof. St-Hilaire has received a multinational grant to explore the use of nanobubbler to reduce bacterial levels and reduce disease incidence in aquaculture systems. The objectives of this grant are to :

  • Evaluate the effects of different concentrations of air, oxygen, and ozone nanobubbles on the survival of representative fresh and salt water pathogens found in Asia (i.e. Streptococcus agalactiae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio anguillarum)
  • Measure the effect of different durations and concentrations of nanobubbles on water chemistry, gill morphology, morbidity, and mortality of representative Asian fresh and salt water aquaculture species (i.e. tilapia, grouper, and shrimp).
  • Determine whether nanobubbles can enhance the efficacy of vaccines against Vibrio sp. and Streptococcus sp. under laboratory conditions.
  • Evaluate whether nanobubbles, with and without a forward osmosis membrane process, can significantly reduce the level of oxytetracycline in salt and fresh water.
  • Determine whether nanobubble technology reduces mortality of fish and shrimp during bacterial disease outbreaks and alters the composition of pathogenic and non-pathogen bacteria in commercial fresh and salt water aquaculture systems.
  • Assess whether nanobubble technology can enhance fish growth, and determine whether this process is mediated by a change in the gut microbiome composition.
  • Conduct an economic assessment of the costs and benefits of using nanobubble technology on small to medium-sized farms in Asia.
  • Deliver workshops for fish farmers to transfer knowledge and demonstrate technology.

This 3-year HK$15 million project, which started in March 2019, involves partners in Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Scotland. Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production industries in the world, particularly in Asia and China has emerged in recent years as the largest producer of aquaculture products globally. The research findings will bring benefits to the aquaculture sector with global relevance.