More rapid and severe disease outbreaks for aquaculture at the tropics: implications for food security


  • Tommy L. F. Leung,

    Corresponding author
    • Centre for Behavioural and Physiological Ecology, Zoology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
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  • Amanda E. Bates

    1. Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Taroona, TAS, Australia
    2. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Vic., Australia
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  1. Aquaculture is replacing capture fisheries in supplying the world with dietary protein. Although disease is a major threat to aquaculture production, the underlying global epidemiological patterns are unknown.
  2. We analysed disease outbreak severity across different latitudes in a diverse range of aquaculture systems.
  3. Disease at lower latitudes progresses more rapidly and results in higher cumulative mortality, in particular at early stages of development and in shellfish.
  4. Tropical countries suffer proportionally greater losses in aquaculture during disease outbreaks and have less time to mitigate losses.
  5. Synthesis and applications. Disease can present a major problem for food production and security in equatorial regions where fish and shellfish provide a major source of dietary protein. As the incidences of some infectious diseases may increase with climate change, adaptation strategies must consider global patterns in disease vulnerability of aquaculture and develop options to minimize impacts on food production.