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 (the department) 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 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.


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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 May 2018). 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 May 2018)
1.1. Develop sector-specific biosecurity plan templates and guidance documentsThe Aquaculture Farm Biosecurity Plan – Generic Guidelines and Template was endorsed by SCAAH and the National Aquatic Animal Health Industry Reference Group (NAAHIRG) in 2016 and is available on the department’s website.
SCAAH endorsed the development proposal for sector-specific aquaculture biosecurity plans in June 2016. Abalone and oyster plans were developed by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), in collaboration with the Australian Abalone Growers Association and Oysters Australia, respectively. These plans were endorsed by SCAAH in October 2017 and AHC in February 2018, and will now be published by the department. A draft barramundi plan was developed by the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association and is with SCAAH for endorsement. The Australian Prawn Farmers Association is developing a sector specific plan for the prawn sector, consistent with the Aquaculture Farm Biosecurity Plan.
In progress
1.2. Develop a program to support farms to develop and implement enterprise-level biosecurity plansThe SCAAH biosecurity plan working group (WG) has been established to oversee implementation of this activity and held its first teleconference on 8 November 2017.
The WG will develop a proposed approach and budget for the implementation of this activity based on recommendations by a stakeholder needs survey. A draft questionnaire has been prepared by the WG. A consultant will be engaged to further develop and implement the survey.
In progress
1.3. Develop a model aquaculture enterprise health accreditation scheme using abalone aquaculture as an exampleThe Abalone Health Accreditation Program was endorsed by 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 May 2018)
2.1. Implement an agreed work plan to develop industry–government emergency aquatic animal disease response arrangements (the Aquatic Deed)The department has funded Animal Health Australia (AHA) to project manage this activity. A WG has been formed to oversee implementation of the work plan. The WG includes representatives from all major industry sectors (tuna, abalone – aquaculture & wild capture, salmon, prawns, edible oysters, pearl oysters, barramundi, and aquarium industries), together with Government representatives.
Development of the draft deed text has progressed rapidly, with the draft deed completed in December 2017. Policy issues considered include: proposal for a three thirds funding agreement, a process to agree to alternative funding proportions, response plan funding limits, among government cost-sharing, among industry cost-sharing, application of the deed to capture fisheries, and eligible costs. Legal drafting review is currently underway.
The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) has endorsed AHA as custodian of the Aquatic Deed. Consultation on the draft deed will culminate in a joint industry and government workshop to be held mid-2018.
In progress
2.2. Develop a program of national and sector-specific emergency aquatic animal disease response exercises, including field and operational activitiesA review of the past exercises and potential development of evaluation guidelines were discussed at SCAAH-25 in March 2016. Emergency Response Exercises (ERE) WG terms of reference and work plan revised and re-endorsed by SCAAH in October 2016. The revisions relate to the review process of completed response exercises. ERE WG Milestones 1–5 are complete. Milestone 6 commenced in November 2016.
The ERE WG convened via teleconference in February 2018. Members agreed to map/document recent and currently planned exercises from jurisdictions. A questionnaire on recent and currently planned exercises was prepared and circulated to SCAAH to gather up-to-date information in April 2018.
In progress
2.3. Strengthen national first-response capability to ensure inclusion of specific aquatic animal disease expertiseThe first round of consultation addressing the new model and role of the cross-sectoral Rapid Response Team (RRT) was completed in August 2016.
The second round of consultation addressing the resourcing and management of the cross-sectoral RRT was completed and was endorsed by the NBC on 15 February 2017. The RRT is now  known as the National Biosecurity Response Team (NBRT).
NBC endorsed the arrangements for the NBRT from 1 July 2017. It was agreed that the department, AHA and Plant Health Australia would manage the NBRT, in a joint approach, from 1 July 2017; when the NBRT management arrangements were implemented. Recruitment for the NBRT is now complete. Ongoing activities to support and develop the skills and knowledge of members have commenced.

3. Enhancing surveillance and diagnostic services

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at May 2018)
3.1. Identify possible improvements to increase the sensitivity of Australia’s passive surveillance systems for aquatic animal diseasesA SCAAH WG has been established to guide implementation of this activity. The terms of reference (TOR) were reviewed and re-endorsed at SCAAH-32. At a face-to-face meeting held in March 2018, members agreed that a preliminary nation-wide survey was the best first step to describe and define the current passive surveillance systems that exist for field and laboratories in aquatic animal health in Australia.
Through this project up to three aquaculture industries and aquatic health providers to those industries will be surveyed to establish the present level of effectiveness of passive surveillance as a baseline for determining future performance and improvements or failures. The sectors tentatively identified are the barramundi, yellowtail kingfish and abalone aquaculture sectors. A consultant will be engaged to develop and implement the survey.
The WG will develop tools and improvements to address gaps and weaknesses identified by the survey.
In progress
3.2. Make the Aquatic animal diseases significant to Australia identification field guide available as an application for mobile devices The final version of the App was successfully deployed across Android, Windows and iOS platforms in March 2017.
Although this activity is complete, the fourth edition of the field guide is being reviewed for 2018, which includes revision of the mobile app.
3.3. Undertake aquatic animal health benchmarking for specific aquaculture industry sectorsA SCAAH WG has been established to guide implementation of this activity. The WG aims to undertake industry-specific benchmarking for aquaculture health and production parameters as an aid to individual members of the industry. WG members have been in contact with specific industries to establish what prior work has been undertaken in this area.
At a teleconference held 19 February 2018, it was established that some jurisdictions are already collecting data that may assist this project (e.g. production and farm gate values, pond areas/tank numbers, employment figures, food conversion ratios etc.). The WG has distributed an out-of-session paper seeking advice from SCAAH members on jurisdictional benchmarking data and farmer databases.
In progress
3.4. Adopt processes (new or existing) for formal recognition of validation status of diagnostic tests and identify specific test validation prioritiesThe SCAAH validation testing WG presented its report for comment at SCAAH-25 in March 2016. Comments were addressed and the report was finalised on 22 March 2016. The WG completed its work plan in August 2016. It noted the on-going nature of validation work.
Further activities under activity 3.4 (e.g. validation of specific diagnostic tests) continue as Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiatives (see activity 3.6).
3.5. Develop stable positive control material and internal controls for molecular tests for detection of important endemic and exotic pathogensThe Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) Project 2014/002 “Aquatic Animal Health Subprogram: Development of stable positive control material and development of internal controls for molecular tests for detection of important endemic and exotic pathogens” is nearing completion – all of the project activities have been completed, and the final report is being drafted.
Positive control materials for 32 PCR assays have been prepared. Materials distributed to laboratories, on request.
3.6. Develop validated diagnostic tests for significant new and emerging diseases of aquatic animals in AustraliaProjects on Abalone herpesvirus, Pilchard orthomyxo-like virus (POMV) and prawn viruses are complete (FRDC Projects 2009/032, 2013/033 and 2013/036, respectively). The final report for the project investigating Oyster oedema disease has been submitted and an industry workshop convened (FRDC Project 2013/002).
Projects investigating Yellow head virus genotypes, Perkinsus olseni, and Penaeus monodon mortality syndrome are in progress (FRDC Projects 2015/005, 2016/009 and 2016/013, respectively).
Validation of molecular tests for white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and Ostreid herpesvirus-1 microvariant (OsHV-1) have been funded through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. WSSV data to be analysed, a report prepared and published for a proposed update to the relevant OIE manual chapter. OsHV-1 laboratory data to be collated, gaps identified and further data generated (if required).
In progress
3.7. Improve the breadth of data in Neptune, particularly histopathology slide collectionsThe Neptune facility includes a 200 slide collection and a database of the most published records for aquatic animal diseases and pathogens in Australia.  SCAAH became the primary consultative body for decisions affecting the maintenance and operation of Neptune in November 2014. The CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) agreed to host Neptune from June 2015.
The department and CSIRO-AAHL have agreed on a 2 year project to recover and redevelop Neptune, host it on CSIRO systems and to make it available for Australia’s aquatic animal health community. This project commenced in July 2017. Work on initial objectives is progressing. CSIRO-AAHL has recruited an IT specialist to manage the redeployment and scanning of slides into Neptune. Scanning of the slide collection has been put on hold, as work to deploy Neptune has commenced. This work has been funded through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
In progress
3.8. Describe existing components of Australia’s aquatic animal disease diagnosis network to identify interactions, responsibilities and performance measuresSpecific components of the network include:
  • Australian and New Zealand standard diagnostic procedures (ANZSDPs) for aquatic animal diseases: work plan developed and endorsed. ANZSDPs in progress.
  • National laboratory proficiency testing program: 2013-15 program complete. Program in review and final report drafted. 2017-19 program has commenced. 
  • Aquatic animal health technical forum: 2013-15 program complete. Final report available on the FRDC’s website (FRDC Project 2012/002). The most recent FRDC Aquatic animal health technical forum was held at CSIRO-AAHL in February 2018.
  • SCAAH now the administrator of the Aquatic Slide of the Quarter. This program is on-going.  Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response (LEADDR): Ostreid herpesvirus-1, white spot syndrome virus and Megalocytivirus tests have been included in proficiency testing. Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response (LEADDR): Ostreid herpesvirus-1, white spot syndrome virus and Megalocytivirus tests have been included in proficiency testing.
  • Neptune: see activity 3.7.
An overview document describing Australia’s aquatic animal disease diagnosis network is currently being drafted and will be sent to SCAAH for consideration and comment.
In progress

4. Improving availability of appropriate veterinary medicines

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at May 2018)
4.1. Consider aquatic animal production issues to inform development of the national antimicrobial resistance strategySCAAH 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 antimicrobial use.
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. Complete
4.3. Develop arrangements to improve industry coordination of minor use permit applications to the APVMA The aquaculture industry, with assistance from SCAAH’s Aquatic Veterinary Medicines WG (which includes NAC and Aquaculture Council representatives), is coordinating a variety of permit applications to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). This activity aims to improve availability of appropriate veterinary medicines for aquatic animal health purposes. A list of registered, permitted, soon to expire and non-permitted products requiring APVMA application is regularly discussed and updated.
The WG last met via teleconference in August 2017 and an update on their status was provided at SCAAH-32.
In progress
4.4. Strategically consider long-term regulatory conditions to address market failure for aquatic veterinary medicinesNAC continues to work with the department’s AgVet Chemicals Reform group and the APVMA to understand and address the particular needs of aquaculture in the overall AgVet reform process.
NAC has approached APVMA to request that multi-use chemicals be held by NAC on behalf of members. NAC presented a proposal through FRDC for funding through the third round of the department’s Agricultural and Veterinary chemicals assistance grants to access agricultural and veterinary chemicals. An ad hoc grant was awarded to support research into AgVet chemical controls for White Spot Syndrome Disease.
In progress
4.5. Develop guidance documentation to improve industry understanding of regulations and risks of inappropriate veterinary medicine and chemical useThe WG have developed, and update as required, a table summarising aquatic veterinary medicine regulation in each jurisdiction. A pamphlet for industry is being developed to provide guidance on good practice and responsible veterinary medicine. In progress

5. Improving education, training and awareness

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at May 2018)
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 (FRDC Project 2009-315). Positive feedback was received on the report and recommended that the scheme continues. 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:
  • 2013/414: Review of vocational education courses on aquatic animal health available to fisheries and aquaculture sector in Australia.
  • 2014/403: Development of a national aquatic animal health curriculum for delivery by tertiary institutions. This project funded a national workshop that was convened on 13–14 February 2014.
SCAAH is to review FRDC reports 2013/414 and 2014/403 and, if appropriate, next steps to be identified for activity 5.3
5.3. Develop national aquatic animal health curriculums for veterinary and vocational educationWork to develop aquatic animal health curriculums for veterinary and vocational training follows on from the work conducted under activity 5.2. A decision is required as to whether or not further projects should be proposed to address curriculum development. There is a need to better differentiate the focuses of university and vocational training. Currently, there has been no indication from stakeholders that this is an immediate priority.
SCAAH has recommended that activity 5.3 be deferred.
In progress
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)A SCAAH WG has been established to guide implementation of this activity. The TOR were endorsed by SCAAH in October 2017.
WG members updated a spreadsheet on ‘available aquaculture disease management material to industry’. The updated list has been circulated to SCAAH for consideration and comment. The WG has requested that SCAAH members provide any additional material not already listed in the spreadsheet.
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