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J Invertebr Pathol. 2012 Jun;110(2):211-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2012.03.011. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

The impact of pathogens on exploited populations of decapod crustaceans.

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  • 1Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA.


Several crustacean fisheries have experienced significant outbreaks of disease that have damaged their industries. Not only do fisheries suffer from direct losses to pathogens, such as disease-induced mortalities or reduced product value, but they can also incur indirect losses such as stunting, castration, and increased risk of predation. In some cases, the indirect losses can be substantial, yet they are often overlooked by the fishing industry as their primary focus is on recruits to the fishery, and not on the affected juvenile pre-recruits. Low levels of pathogens are to be expected in natural populations of commercial species, but baseline data on the prevalence and intensity of even the most common agents is often lacking. It is important to establish baselines for two reasons. First, it is important to know what pathogens exist in heavily exploited populations so as to gauge their potential to damage the industry; and second, during outbreaks, it is important to know whether an outbreak is a newly emergent event or whether it is a component of a cyclical phenomenon. Pathogens frequently act in concert with environmental stressors, and a variety of stressors have contributed to outbreaks of emerging agents in crustacean fisheries. Pollution, poor water quality, hypoxia, temperature extremes, and overexploitation have all been implicated as stressors in various outbreaks. This review focuses on epidemic diseases of commercially fished crustaceans. Outbreaks in cultured stocks are not covered. Disease epizootics have occurred in fished populations of crayfish and shrimp but they are less well known than the issues arising from extensive aquaculture of these species.

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