Risk assessment of aquaculture medicines

The ERA-AQUA Decision Support System was developed to estimate risks of veterinary medicinal products applied in pond aquaculture for the targeted produce, surrounding aquatic ecosystems, consumers and trade. The ERA-AQUA can be used to perform risk assessments in a wide range of aquaculture scenarios based on information on environmental characteristics, aquaculture management practices and physico-chemical and toxicological properties of the compound under study.

chemical application


Veterinary medicinal products are applied in aquaculture production for treating and preventing bacterial diseases and parasitic infestations in the cultured species. On the one hand, aquaculture medicinal products can be considered as a powerful tool for improving the health status of the cultured species and increasing the productivity of the aquaculture farms. However, on the other hand, some veterinary medicines might pose a risk for the targeted aquaculture animals when they are not used according to recommendations since they can induce mortalities or reduce the growth rates in the cultured organisms. Veterinary medicines may enter the environment through the continuous or intermittent discharge of aquaculture effluents, posing a potential risk for the biodiversity and functioning of surrounding aquatic ecosystems. In addition to this, human health and trade may be negatively affected by the presence of residues of veterinary medicines in the aquaculture produce, since they might result in potential side-effects on consumers and rejections of aquaculture products in national and international food safety controls.
Drug transfer and dissipation processes included in the ERA-AQUA DSS
Processes modeled by the ERA-AQUA DSS


The ERA-AQUA Decision Support System (DSS) was developed to assess risks posed by the use of veterinary medicines in pond aquaculture production systems for:
  • the targeted produce
  • non-target aquatic organisms (acute and chronic)
  • consumers, and
  • the trade of the aquaculture produce
For all risk assessments an exposure as well as an effect assessment is performed following a conservative approach. In the exposure assessment, concentrations of the aquaculture drug applied either mixed with feed or directly to water are calculated in the pond water, in the targeted produce and in the effluent discharge point of the adjacent aquatic ecosystems. The effect assessment consists of determining safe concentrations for the different compartments, and is based on the use of safety factors applied to laboratory toxicity data or food safety standards. The risk assessment is then performed by following a risk quotient approach, by dividing the predicted exposure concentration by the predicted safe concentration in the compartment under study.


The ERA-AQUA DSS v2.0 is incorporated in a Graphical User Interface in Microsoft EXCEL and is freely available for download here.
You can download the technical description and user's manual here.

There's also a poster available about the model here.


If you want to receive more information, please click here and fill in the contactform.