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US cracks down on live tilapia imports over Tilapia Lake Virus fears

The federal order is set to take effect Dec. 12.

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday issued a federal order to halt imports of live fish, fertilized eggs and gametes from Tilapia Lake Virus (TLV)-susceptible species in order to prevent the disease from entering the United States.

TiLV–susceptible species under the order include:

  • Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
  • commercial hybrid tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus x Oreochromis aureus)
  • red hybrid tilapia (Oreochromis spp.) and
  • wild tilapia (Sarotherodon galilaeus)

The order requires imported shipments of all live fish, fertilized eggs and gametes from TiLV-susceptible species to have a USDA import permit, official health certificate and veterinary inspection, according to the National Aquaculture Association.

The United States imports the majority of its processed tilapia, but the virus has threatened the US dometic tilapia industry in recent years.

There are no treatments or vaccines for the disease at this time. TiLV was first detected in the United States in March 2019, but was quickly eradicated, according to the National Aquaculture Association.

In 2018, the United States imported 188,644 metric tons of tilapia, with 75 percent of that being from China, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries data.

In 2018, the United States exported 1,738 metric tons of tilapia, largely to Canada, Japan and South Korea.

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