The formation of the EAFP
Participants in the first meeting of the EIFAC/OIE Co-operative Programme of Research on Aquaculture (COPRAQ), Zagreb 1975, recognised the importance of direct contact between research workers and the need for rapid dissemination of information. It was suggested that important information might be disseminated through publication of leaflets and news sheets by a professional association rather than by publication through the normal channels. The possibility of establishing an association of fish pathologists for that purpose was recommended.
The vast majority of workers engaged in fish disease studies throughout Europe supported the establishment of such an association and a committee of five (R. Bootsma, BJ. Hill, RJ. Roberts, S. Sarig & PE. Vestergård-Jørgensen) was elected by postal ballot. This committee was given the task of organising the formation of the European Association of Fish Pathologists. The first task of the organising committee was to draw up a list of known active workers in the field of fish pathology in Europe. The organising committee drafted the statutes of the association which were discussed and approved at the inaugural meeting held in Munich in October 1979. On June 18, 2021, the organization was officially registered as a non-profit organization under the name European Association of Fish Pathologists, e.V. The organization is headquartered in Berlin, Germany.
The objectives of the newly formed Association were defined as the promotion of the exchange of knowledge on and assistance in the coordination of research related to fish and shellfish pathology. To this end, it was intended that the Association would organize the publication of a regular newsletter. Membership was to be open to all fish and shellfish pathologists, students of fish pathology and organisations, agencies or other associations that had an interest in maintaining the objectives of the Association.
A Council of Officers to manage the Association was elected at the inaugural meeting. At the end of the first 6 months, membership was just over 50 and 11 branches had been established within Europe. The popularity of the EAFP and what it was attempting to achieve was reflected by a continuous stream of enquiries from people wishing to become members. Total membership had grown to over 90 in the first year.
It was decided to produce a formal means of communication and the EAFP Bulletin was started in September 1981. The change from the Newsletter format to the Bulletin format was an immediate success and from then on the Bulletin, and the EAFP as an organisation, went from strength to strength. The hope expressed in the first issue that the Bulletin would appear quarterly was achieved. In 1987, the number of issues of the Bulletin in each annual volume was increased to 5, and from Volume 11 the number of issues was increased to six per year. Much of the success of the EAFP stems from the sense of comradeship and friendly co-operation between enthusiasts, but one of the mainstays of the Association and a major reason for the growing popularity of the EAFP has been the Bulletin itself. There is no question that the quality has improved over the years and this is now reflected in the fact that some 48 libraries around the world subscribe to receive the Bulletin. Archived papers are now available for free download and in 2011 the bulletin moved to full colour. In 2021, the Bulletin transitioned into a hybrid publication model, offering online free publication through Scholastica, with printed copies available exclusively to members who expressed their desire to receive them. However, in 2023, the General Assembly voted to discontinue the printed format of the Bulletin, leading to its transition into a diamond open access format.
Growth in EAFP Membership
Since 1982, growth in membership has continued, with more and more countries requesting their own Branch of the EAFP. By 1990 the total membership had climbed above 800 with members in 43 countries with an established total of 39 Branches, making the EAFP undoubtedly the largest and most international of the 4 major associations in the field of fish and shellfish pathology. In 1995 membership finally reached and then exceeded the long aimed-for target of 1,000 with members from 57 countries. In 1992 the support of the Commission of the European Community was obtained in the form of an award of financial support to fund the distribution costs of the Bulletin for 3 years. This recognition by the EEC of the value of the EAFP for quickly disseminating information on fish and shellfish diseases via its Bulletin was a significant endorsement of the stature the Association and enabled the Bulletin to continue on a sound financial basis. In last few years the total membership varies above 800 members from 45 countries organized in 37 Branches.
Building on the success of the EAFP Bulletin, the Council extended the Association’s publications to our first Members Handbook in 1992. In 1995, a full-colour guide entitled “What should I do? – a Guide for the Freshwater Fish Farmer” was published, which with the support of the European Commission, was distributed to all members. A similar guide for the marine fish farmer was published in 1997 and translated into Spanish. These can be download from our website. As technology moves forward, the EAFP has published eight CD ROMs, based on the hugely popular and successful histopathology workshops at the International conferences. With advancements in technology, we have ceased the publication of CD-ROMs. Now, all materials from histopathology workshops are accessible to members exclusively through the “members only” area on the EAFP webpage.
The second major reason for the growth of the EAFP has been the tremendous popularity and success of our International Conference held every 2 years. Planning for the next conference in September 2025 has already started. As with the EAFP Bulletin, many members have expressed the view that the EAFP International Conferences are the friendliest and most useful of all the international meetings they have attended. The achievements of the international meetings owe a great deal to the dedicated effort of the local Branch members of the EAFP in assisting with the preparation and management of the meeting, and the determination of the Meetings Secretary and Council to ensure all goes well.
The EAFP has been actively organizing national scientific meetings through its Branches. In recent years, these Branch meetings have been held regularly in various countries within the German-speaking region, such as Austria and Switzerland. Similarly, the Ireland and UK branches have hosted highly successful meetings in different venues including Galway, Stirling, and Weymouth, with up to a hundred participants from the UK, as well as other European and non-European countries. One notable event, “Connecting academia with industry for improving aquatic animal health,” was held in Galway and hosted by the Marine Institute in Ireland, drawing 85 participants, including delegates from Norway, Malta, Croatia, and Malaysia. The French EAFP branch organized its 14th meeting as an independent session during the WAS & EAS conference in Montpellier, France, along with several other meetings of the French branch. Additionally, meetings have been held in Chile and Finland. Approximately 25 members of the French branch, along with numerous non-EAFP members, attended the meeting. In addition to these regular gatherings, EAFP branch meetings were also conducted in 2017 in Chile and Finland. The Council anticipates a continued increase in the frequency of such Branch meetings under the auspices of the EAFP and acknowledges the invaluable contributions made by the Branch Officers to the Association’s success. In recognition of exceptional efforts, the Council established an award in 1991 to honor these outstanding Branch Officials.
Last, and certainly not least, has been the important contribution of Sustaining Members to the growth and strength of the EAFP. These are commercial organizations that, for one reason or another (often with “encouragement” from the local Branch official), have recognized the value of what the EAFP is striving to achieve and who wish to help it succeed. There are currently 22 Sustaining Members and these are identified on the EAFP webpage. Their generous support is gratefully acknowledged.
In summary, it can be seen that the EAFP has developed from its small and uncertain beginning of 45 years ago into a significant international association going from strength to strength.