AQUAPLAN - Australia's National Strategic Plan for Aquatic Animal Health

AQUAPLAN is Australia’s National Strategic Plan for Aquatic Animal Health. The plan outlines objectives and priorities to enhance Australia’s management of aquatic animal health. AQUAPLAN is a collaborative initiative that is developed and implemented by the Australian and state and territory governments and aquatic animal industries.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources coordinates the development and implementation of AQUAPLAN. National implementation of AQUAPLAN activities and projects is overseen by the Animal Health Committee (AHC) and its Sub-Committee on Aquatic Animal Health (SCAAH) in close collaboration with industry. Australia has had two previous five-year AQUAPLANs. AQUAPLAN 2014–2019 is Australia’s current national strategic plan for aquatic animal health.

AQUAPLAN 2014-2019

AQUAPLAN 2014-2019 PDF Icon PDF [4.6 MB] Word Icon Word [853 KB] is Australia’s third national strategic plan for aquatic animal health. It was endorsed by industry through the National Aquatic Animal Health Industry Reference Group and later by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum. The plan commenced following ministerial endorsement on 11 August 2014.

AQUAPLAN 2014-2019 has five objectives and each objective is supported by activities that address specific aquatic animal health management issues. The status of AQUAPLAN’s 24 activities is provided in the tables below each objective (current at July 2016). For more information on any of the AQUAPLAN 2014–2019 activities below please contact the Aquatic Pest and Health Policy team.

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1. Improving regional and enterprise-level biosecurity

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at June 2016)
1.1. Develop sector-specific biosecurity plan templates and guidance documentsA generic aquaculture farm biosecurity plan template has been developed and ‘road tested’ by a selection of aquaculture farmers. A revised final version was provided to SCAAH for endorsement and will be used to develop sector-specific biosecurity plans. Expressions-of-interest have been sought from industries who would like to develop tailored plans and guidelines for their sector, with the assistance of the Department and SCAAH.In progress
1.2. Develop a program to support farms to develop and implement enterprise-level biosecurity plansA program to support farms to develop and implement enterprise-level biosecurity plans will follow completion of Activity 1.1.Not yet commenced
1.3. Develop a model aquaculture enterprise health accreditation scheme using abalone aquaculture as an exampleThe Abalone Health Accreditation Program was endorsed by Animal Health Committee (AHC) and provided to industry. Implementation of the program is now occurring at a jurisdictional level, including development of biosecurity plans.Complete

2. Strengthening emergency disease preparedness and response capability

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at June 2016)
2.1. Implement an agreed work plan to develop industry–government emergency aquatic animal disease response arrangementsA consultancy on public: private benefits was completed in late 2015 and outcomes presented at a workshop held in March 2016. An options paper will now be developed outlining possible methodologies, rationale and worked examples for consideration by the AHC and the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC).In progress
2.2. Develop a program of national and sector-specific emergency aquatic animal disease response exercises, including field and operational activitiesSCAAH commenced development of the program of disease response exercises at its workshop held on 11-12 March 2015.  The project is on track to meet Milestone 3 – documenting past simulation and actual aquatic emergency disease exercises and events for discussion at the next SCAAH face-to-face meeting.In progress
2.3. Strengthen national first-response capability to ensure inclusion of specific aquatic animal disease expertiseNew cross-sectoral rapid response team (RRT) arrangements were considered at a workshop held in September 2015. The Department is developing a new RRT model for stakeholder consultation, with the new cross-sectoral arrangements expected by early 2017.In progress

3. Enhancing surveillance and diagnostic services

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at June 2016)
3.1. Identify possible improvements to increase the sensitivity of Australia’s passive surveillance systems for aquatic animal diseases A SCAAH working group has been established and its terms of reference (TOR) agreed. A national survey of laboratories to scope current passive surveillance data sources has been developed and will be circulated prior to the next SCAAH meeting.In progress
3.2. Make the Aquatic animal diseases significant to Australia identification field guide available as an application for mobile devicesProposals for the development of the app have been evaluated and a successful tender was secured in March 2016. The project commenced in April and is expected to be completed later in 2016.In progress
3.3. Undertake aquatic animal health benchmarking for specific aquaculture industry sectorsPreliminary discussions with industry indicate strong interest in this project. Membership of a Benchmarking Working Group has been expanded, and members met at the SCAAH face-to-face meeting in March 2016.In progress
3.4. Adopt processes (new or existing) for formal recognition of validation status of diagnostic tests and identify specific test validation prioritiesThe Validation of Diagnostic Testing Working Group met in September 2015 and agreed on an experimental design; identified other sources of test validation data; consolidated available SCAHLS and OIE procedures; and identified assays for technical review. A report will be prepared for the next SCAAH face-to-face meeting.In progress
3.5. Develop stable positive control material and internal controls for molecular tests for detection of important endemic and exotic pathogensA Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) project (2014/002) entitled ‘Development of stable positive control material and development of internal controls for molecular tests for detection of important endemic and exotic pathogens’ is underway. Positive control material has been generated and is currently being assessed. The next steps will be to distribute protocols to laboratories, and provide advice on the implementation of protocols, based on feedback.In progress
3.6. Develop validated diagnostic tests for significant new and emerging diseases of aquatic animals in AustraliaRelevant FRDC research projects (see Activities 3.4 and 3.5) have been completed and/or are ongoing to develop validated tests for significant new and emerging diseases of aquatic animals in Australia. Australia’s network of aquatic animal disease diagnostic laboratories are working to identify any other priorities (e.g. infectious myonecrosis virus of prawns, or IMNV).In progress
3.7. Improve the breadth of data in Neptune, particularly histopathology slide collectionsNeptune is in the process of being relocated to CSIRO-Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL). The Department and CSIRO-AAHL are in the process of finalising the relocation and hosting arrangements.In progress
3.8. Describe existing components of Australia’s aquatic animal disease diagnosis network to identify interactions, responsibilities and performance measuresSeveral components of the system have been identified and are at various stages of development, including: ANZDPs, national lab proficiency testing program, AAH technical forum, Slide of the Quarter, LEADDR, the diagnostic laboratory capability database, and Neptune.In progress

4. Improving availability of appropriate veterinary medicines

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at June 2016)
4.1. Consider aquatic animal production issues to inform development of the national antimicrobial resistance strategy SCAAH members provided input on aquatic animal production issues to inform the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019. The strategy is now available on the Department’s website and an implementation plan is under development. The Department will discuss with aquaculture industries about activities that would be useful to them. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) now requires all Member Countries to report on antibiotic use (aggregated data, not separated into terrestrial and aquatic).Complete
4.2. Run an industry–government workshop to identify ways to improve access to veterinary medicines and chemicals, including low-risk chemicalsThe National Aquaculture Council (NAC) participated in the AgVet Collaborative Forum program meetings including the AgVet Prioritisation Workshop in June 2015. Aquaculture’s existing and categorised priorities have been registered on a master list of priorities of all animal and plant sectors, and work is ongoing.In progress
4.3. Develop arrangements to improve industry coordination of minor use permit applications to the APVMAThe NAC has negotiated a revised minor use permit (MUP) for hydrogen peroxide, and successfully renewed an existing MUP for formalin. Other industry parties have taken over the pursuit of a MUP for praziquantel. NAC is working with All Farm Animal Health to renew an expired MUP for Oxytetracycline.In progress
4.4. Strategically consider long-term regulatory conditions to address market failure for aquatic veterinary medicinesThe NAC continues to work with the Department’s AgVet Reform group and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to understand and address the particular needs of aquaculture in the overall AgVet Reform process.In progress
4.5. Develop guidance documentation to improve industry understanding of regulations and risks of inappropriate veterinary medicine and chemical useThe Aquatic Veterinary Medicines Working Group is drafting a 1-page pamphlet on good practice and responsible AgVet chemical use for industry. A draft pamphlet will be tabled at the next working group meeting.In progress

5. Improving education, training and awareness

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at June 2016)
5.1. Review the Aquatic Animal Health Training Scheme (2013–14)A review report of the 2013-15 Aquatic Animal Health Training Scheme was completed in late 2015 and will soon be posted on the FRDC website. The program is likely to be renewed in 2016.Complete
5.2. Assess requirements for a national aquatic animal health curriculum that can be adapted for end-users ranging from vocational training to higher educationTwo FRDC projects were funded to address this activity: a final report was completed for ‘A review of Vocational Education and Training aquatic animal health programs within Australia’ and the other final report is pending.In progress
5.3. Develop national aquatic animal health curricula for veterinary and vocational educationCommencement of this activity is contingent on Activity 5.2 being completed. Once the recommendations from Activity 5.2 projects have been reviewed, the next steps will be to implement curriculum development and preparation of training materials, and then determine the best way to make the materials available to stakeholders.Not yet commenced
5.4. Develop short-course training material for industry on management of aquatic animal disease incidents (including reporting procedures, collecting samples for laboratory diagnostics and record keeping)Draft terms of reference (TORs) have been developed for the working group and a draft list of available training resources has been developed. The Educational Material for Industry on Disease Incidents Working Group met at the SCAAH face-to-face meeting in March and are working on progressing this activity.In progress
5.5. Develop an AQUAPLAN 2014–2019 Communication StrategyAn AQUAPLAN Communications Strategy was endorsed by SCAAH and AHC in 2014, and will be reviewed annually at the SCAAH face-to-face meeting, and updated as required.Complete