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 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 September 2016)
1.1. Develop sector-specific biosecurity plan templates and guidance documentsThe Aquaculture Farm Biosecurity Plan – Generic Guidelines and Template has been endorsed by SCAAH and the National Aquatic Animal Health Industry Reference Group (NAAHIRG).
Endorsement from SCAAH of the development proposal for sector-specific aquaculture biosecurity plans. Abalone, oyster and prawn plans are in the early stages of development.
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 September 2016)
2.1. Implement an agreed work plan to develop industry–government emergency aquatic animal disease response arrangementsThe department has funded Animal Health Australia (AHA) to project manage this activity. A Working Group (WG) has been formed to oversee implementation of the work plan.
In March 2016, a stakeholder workshop was held. The WG was expanded to include representatives from major industry sectors (tuna, abalone – aquaculture & wild capture, salmon, prawns, edible oysters, pearl oysters, barramundi, and aquarium industries), together with Government representatives.
Stakeholder feedback following the March 2016 workshop was considered and the work plan modified to address identified issues.
In progress
2.2. Develop a program of national and sector-specific emergency aquatic animal disease response exercises, including field and operational activitiesMeeting held at SCAAH #25 (1-3 March 2016) to discuss initial review/development of evaluation guidelines. Emergency Response Exercises (ERE) working group is seeking endorsement from SCAAH of revised terms of reference and work plan. The revisions relate to the review process of completed response exercises. ERE WG Milestones 1-4 are complete.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 and a paper submitted by the department to the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) for endorsement.
The second round of consultation by the department with jurisdictions addressing the resourcing and management of the cross-sectoral RRT is currently underway, due for completion at the end of September 2016.
In progress

3. Enhancing surveillance and diagnostic services

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at September 2016)
3.1. Identify possible improvements to increase the sensitivity of Australia’s passive surveillance systems for aquatic animal diseasesA 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 devicesThe successful project proponent commenced work on the development of the mobile App in May 2016. The App will undergo performance trials in October 2016.In progress
3.3. Undertake aquatic animal health benchmarking for specific aquaculture industry sectorsInitial discussion undertaken with some industries. Initial work on developing a benchmarking framework.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 testing WG presented its report for comment at SCAAH #25 Brisbane, 1-2 March 2016. Comments received from members were addressed and a revised document was submitted to SCAAH and circulated to members on 22 March 2016.In progress
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 well-advanced.
Positive control materials for 32 PCR assays have been prepared. Materials distributed to laboratories, on request.
In progress
3.6. Develop validated diagnostic tests for significant new and emerging diseases of aquatic animals in AustraliaProjects on abalone herpesvirus, Salmon Orthomyxo-like virus and prawn viruses were completed, projects investigating Oyster Oedema Disease, Yellow head virus genotypes, Perkinsus olseni, and Penaeus monodon mortality syndrome are underway.In progress
3.7. Improve the breadth of data in Neptune, particularly histopathology slide collectionsIn the process of being relocated to CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).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 Aquatic Australian and New Zealand Standard Diagnostic Procedures​(ANZSDPs), the National laboratory proficiency testing program, the aquatic animal health technical forum, the Aquatic Slide of the Quarter, Laboratories for Emergency Animal Disease Diagnosis and Response (LEADDR) and the National aquatic animal disease diagnostic laboratory capability database.In progress

4. Improving availability of appropriate veterinary medicines

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at September 2016)
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 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.Complete
4.3. Develop arrangements to improve industry coordination of minor use permit applications to the APVMAThe aquaculture industry is coordinating a variety of minor use permit applications to the Australia Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). This industry led project is assisted by SCAAH’s Aquatic Veterinary Medicines Working Group, which includes a NAC and Aquaculture Committee representative. Industry and the Aquaculture Committee continue to work on this issue. A list of registered, permitted, soon to expire and non-permitted products requiring an APVMA application are regularly discussed and updated.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.In progress
4.5. Develop guidance documentation to improve industry understanding of regulations and risks of inappropriate veterinary medicine and chemical useThe SCAAH working group 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 use.In progress

5. Improving education, training and awareness

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at September 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. 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: A Review of Vocational Education and Training Aquatic Animal Health Programs Within Australia. Final report completed and available. 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. Final report completed and available.Complete
5.3. Develop national aquatic animal health curricula for veterinary and vocational educationA SCAAH WG has been formed to further develop this activity after preparatory work through the two FRDC projects 2013/414 and 2014/403 (see Activity 5.2).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)In February 2016 the educational material for industry on disease incidents WG drafted their terms of reference. A draft list of available training resources has been developed.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