DAO prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03373

Short term approach to wildlife epidemiology of skin ulceration disease in the new target species of sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis

F. Cánovas*, J. A. Domínguez-Godino, M. González-Wangüemert

*Email: fcanovas@ucam.edu

ABSTRACT: Interest in wildlife epidemiology has been stimulated in recent years. The control of diseases is critical for the survival of natural populations of economically valuable species. The present study is the first investigation of the etiology and epidemiology of skin ulceration disease in the sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis, a new target species for fisheries and aquaculture in Europe. Bacterial cultures and molecular techniques were used to characterize this disease in animals collected during a survey across Ria Formosa Natural Park coastal lagoon (south Portugal). Vibrio gigantis and Vibrio crassostreae were the most commonly isolated species of bacteria, both originally identified as disease agents in cultured oysters. Both sampling areas were close to open aquaculture facilities for oysters, which raises the possibility of an opportunistic infection, perhaps secondary to decreased immune response caused by biotic or abiotic factors. An increase in prevalence of skin ulceration disease during the warmer season suggests that solar radiation and desiccation due to air exposure during low tide could be a cause of abiotic stress in the lagoon. Distributions of abundance and size in affected areas show highest morbidity rates in adults. High fishery pressures throughout the study period could also cause elevations in prevalence and incidence rate of this disease. Skin ulcerative disease is endemic in this coastal lagoon. Disease monitoring is thus essential for the development of a conservation program to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and protection of natural resources.