Session 4C – Safety and Health in Aquaculture: Policy and Practice

Monday, June 11, 3:30pm – 5:00pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1045

4C.1  Improving safety and risk management in exposed aquaculture operationsIngunn Marie Holmen, Ingrid Utne, and Stein Haugen, NTNU Dept for Marine Technology (Presentation slides).

The aquaculture industry has since the 70’s grown to become one of the most important industries in Norway. The Norwegian aquaculture production has the potential for fivefold increase within 2050 (Olafsen et al. 2012). To be able to grow, and at the same time safeguard fish welfare and the environment, companies are exploring the possibilities for moving the production to sites further from shore.

Fish farmers at today’s exposed locations, report considerable difficulties in maintaining safe production (Sandberg et al. 2012). During the winter months, harsh weather conditions are already causing downtime at several sites. The operational challenges are expected to increase due to extreme weather. The overall management of daily operation is more unpredictable, and this raises new safety challenges at the fish farms (Utne et al. 2017). The probability of fish escapes may increase due to less opportunities for maintenance and daily inspections. Furthermore, fish farming is the second most risk-exposed occupation in Norway after being a fisherman (Aasjord and Holmen 2009, Holen et al. 2017a & 2017b). The harsher operating conditions set stricter requirements to maintenance and safety management strategies.

This is the background for a PhD project starting in 2016, aiming to develop improved risk management strategies and systems in fish farming, integrating technical, human and organizational factors. This will contribute to reducing the risk of fish escapes, uncontrolled spreading of parasites (“salmon lice”) and other diseases, as well as occupational accident risk.

The presentation will focus on findings during from the first two years of the project, and give a brief introduction to the status of safety management in the Norwegian fish farming industry.


Aasjord H & Holmen IM (2009). Accidents in the Norwegian fisheries and some other comparable Norwegian industries. The 4th International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference, Iceland.

Holen SM, Utne IB, Holmen IM, Aasjord HL (2017a). Occupational safety in aquaculture – Part 1: Injuries in Norway (accepted for publication in Marine Policy).

Holen SM, Utne IB, Holmen IM, Aasjord HL (2017b). Occupational safety in aquaculture – Part 2: Fatalities in Norway (accepted for publication in Marine Policy).

Olafsen T, Winther U, Olsen Y, Skjermo J (2012). Value created from productive oceans in 2050. SINTEF report A23299.

Sandberg MG, Lien AM, Sunde LM, Størkersen K, Stien LH, Kristiansen T (2012). Experiences and analyses from operation of fish farms in exposed locations (in Norwegian). SINTEF report A22528.

Utne IB, Schjølberg I, Holmen IM, Bar EMS (2017). Risk management in aquaculture – integrating sustainability perspectives. Proceedings of the ASME 2017 36th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering OMAE2017 (Trondheim, Norway, 25-30 June 2017).


4C.2  Compliance to global aquaculture standards on human resources: A case study of selected shrimp farms in Thailand Arlene Nietes Satapornvanit, Kasetsart University, Thailand; David Little, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, UK; Kriengkrai Satapornvanit, Kasetsart University, Thailand (Presentation slides).

This paper presents a case study of selected shrimp farms regarding their compliance to aquaculture standards on human resources. These global standards in aquaculture ensure that workers are treated well and provided with enough compensation and good living and working conditions as befits a human being. They therefore cover worker welfare, which shows that the emerging consensus is that labor conditions and employee welfare on farms are being considered at the same level as environmental management, animal welfare and food safety for sustainable and ethical production of seafood. The main areas covered by these standards include workers’ safety and occupational health, worker welfare and living conditions, legal aspects and documentation including labor laws, knowledge and training. A sequential mixed methods approach was applied to obtain information from the field. In-depth or face to face surveys were conducted among shrimp farm owners, managers, workers and key informants from government and non-government groups. A gender lens was also applied to some aspects. The majority of the farms were aware of these standards and guidelines which promote worker safety and occupational health and safety as well as employee relations, in shrimp farms. The standards require that farms should comply with local and national labor laws in order that workers are adequately safe in the working environment, not exposed to health issues, compensated properly, and provided with good on-site living conditions including training to perform their tasks related to chemical handling and hygiene standards. Farm owners should ensure safety in the work place, to ensure that workers do not face risk of injury and sickness from equipment, substances, infrastructure, and human forces. The management measures to ensure safety at work for workers and non-workers in the farms and how they are complying with the standards are described, including areas where there is poor compliance.


4C.3  Keeping workers safe in the emerging U.S. offshore aquaculture industryJillian Fry, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (Presentation slides).

NOAA and other federal agencies are working to develop an offshore aquaculture industry in federal waters. Offshore aquaculture combines elements of commercial fishing and agriculture, two industries with serious occupational hazards. Almost all marine aquaculture in the United States currently takes place in state waters; siting production further offshore potentially involves additional hazards and uncertainties regarding regulatory oversight. Based on research in other developed countries with established marine aquaculture industries, I will summarize current knowledge of occupational safety risks among marine aquaculture workers including injury and death rates, causal factors, and injury severity. I will also describe the current occupational safety regulatory landscape in the United States, with a focus on production settings in federal waters. If the vision of an offshore aquaculture industry comes to fruition, a robust, transparent, and collaborative effort is needed to ensure that workers are kept safe in this challenging setting.


4C.4  Occupational health in aquaculture – a review of the literature Dorothy Ngajilo and Mohamed Jeebhay, University of Cape Town, South Africa (Presentation slides).

Background: Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors. While the nature of occupational diseases have been described in certain settings, very little is known about the nature of occupational exposures, risk factors and their associated diseases among aquaculture workers, particularly from developing countries.

Aim: The aim of this review was to describe the occupational exposures and associated occupational diseases among aquaculture workers.

Methods: Relevant articles, Google Scholar, MEDLINE and SCOPUS literature searches were undertaken to identify studies (1960-2017) on occupational exposure and adverse outcomes among aquaculture workers.

Results: Very few studies (3%) were reported from developing countries. Most studies focused on fish and crustaceans, less so molluscs and aquatic plants. Occupational exposure characterisation studies were mainly on levels of noise (43.2-77.5dB) and formaldehyde in hatcheries (<0.045->2.0ppm) and E. coli bacteria in fish ponds (7.0×102-5.3×106CFU/100ml). The most common occupational diseases included musculoskeletal (MSS) disorders (prevalence: 21-63%); allergic respiratory disease and asthma (4-65%); skin infections (2.2-15.7%), dermatitis (6%) and urticaria (0.7%); infections affecting other body systems (leptospirosis incidence: 33/100000PYS); and decompression illness in divers (incidence: 0.57-26.19/10,000PYS). Among crawfish farmers, tractor use was associated with wrist (OR=2.89) and lower backache (OR=2.41), while increased employment duration was associated with upper back MSS disorders (OR=3.07). In fish farming, skin ailments were strongly associated with waste-water exposure (OR=2.74); female gender (OR=2.48); fish farming-related jobs (OR=3.47); lack of protective measures (OR=2.24) and work in wet seasons (OR=2.8).

Conclusion: This review confirms that aquaculture workers are at increased risk of developing occupational diseases attributed to various occupational hazards, and that these risks are infrequently published from developing countries. Future studies should explore the interaction between these environmental exposures and host risk factors in causing occupational disease and to evaluate interventions to reduce these risks in aquaculture workers.


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