Charting her own path in aquaculture
When Dr. Bernita Giffin graduated from the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2009, she could have never guessed her journey in veterinary medicine would take her to Paris, France.
“I always thought I would work directly with the Canadian aquaculture industry. I started along that path as a technical manager with the Centre for Aquatic Animal Sciences at AVC, but then I had an opportunity to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA),” explains Giffin. “After many years there, I saw an opportunity to diversify my career path through international work, such as a secondment to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).”
For the last 10 years, Giffin has worked as a veterinary program specialist for aquatic animal imports in the International Programs Directorate with the CFIA. In that role, she worked on the new Canadian National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP), which she saw as an opportunity to protect all Canadian aquatic animal populations – both wild and farmed - from the introduction of new diseases. As part of the NAAHP, Giffin was responsible for establishing the Canadian import requirements for aquatic animals and their products to prevent the introduction of aquatic animal diseases and negotiating those requirements with exporting countries.
“I was responsible for the negotiations for all countries in the world other than the United States,” says Giffin. “As part of the negotiations, I had to assess each country’s aquatic animal health program and controls to determine how those trade partners were able to meet Canadian import requirements.”
In 2020, Giffin was presented with an opportunity that would result in her leaving Ottawa and moving to Paris. Through a secondment, she joined the OIE as a scientific coordinator for aquatic and animal health in the Standards Department, and secretariat for the Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission.
“This position allows me to gain experience in the international forum, as well as learn about and contribute to the standard-setting processes for aquatic animal health,” says Giffin. “Through my support of the development of the standards, I can impact aquatic animal health and welfare globally.”
The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. In her position, Giffin supports the Commission in the development of the Aquatic Animal Health Standards, which are used by countries around the world to improve aquatic health and welfare and prevent the spread of aquatic animal disease.
“The standards that I’m part of developing at OIE were crucial for my former position at CFIA,” explains Giffin. “The standards would help us establish the Canadian import requirements for aquatic animals and their products from all countries. They would also help us assess how those trade partners were able to meet Canadian import requirements.”
Ultimately, Giffin says, the standards can support all countries in furthering their national aquatic animal health programs, which will not only benefit aquatic animal health and welfare but also aquaculture production and support safe trade.
“Increasing aquatic animal health and welfare supports the global growth in aquatic animal production,” explains Giffin. “Aquatic animal health is integral to aquaculture production, which contributes significantly to human nutrition, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development.”
Giffin will remain in her position at OIE until March 2023.
To find out more about career opportunities as a veterinarian at the CFIA, visit https://bit.ly/CFIAVet.