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.


DocumentPagesFile size
AQUAPLAN 2014-2019 PDFPDF Icon324.6 MB
AQUAPLAN 2014-2019 DOCWord Icon32853 KB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

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 September 2018). For more information on any of the AQUAPLAN 2014–2019 activities below please contact the Aquatic Pest and Health Policy team.

[expand all]

1. Improving regional and enterprise-level biosecurity

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at September 2018)
1.1. Develop sector-specific biosecurity plan templates and guidance documents

The Aquaculture Farm Biosecurity Plan – Generic Guidelines and Template was finalised and published on the department’s website in 2016.

SCAAH endorsed the development proposal for sector-specific aquaculture biosecurity plans.

The National Biosecurity Plan Guidelines for the land based abalone industry and for Australian oyster hatcheries were finalised and published on the department’s website in August 2018.

The barramundi plan was reviewed by SCAAH and comments received will be addressed by the authors by September 2018. The plan will then be sent to AHC for endorsement. The Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) is developing a sector specific biosecurity plan consistent with the generic Aquaculture Farm Biosecurity Plan.

In progress
1.2. Develop a program to support farms to develop and implement enterprise-level biosecurity plans

The SCAAH Biosecurity Plan working group (WG) oversees implementation of this activity. For phase 1 of the project, the WG developed a draft questionnaire to assess eight aquaculture sectors’ preferred approaches to support the development and implementation of enterprise-level biosecurity plans. Following a competitive tender process, an independent research company was chosen by the WG to undertake the social science survey.

The WG had an inception meeting with the company in July 2018. The survey questionnaire was subsequently refined and cognitive testing completed in August 2018. The questionnaire was finalised and survey fieldwork began in late August 2018. Fieldwork is expected to be completed by mid-September and a draft report prepared by the end of September 2018. The final report is due November 2018. Phase 1 was funded by the department through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).

Phase 2 of the project will be developed based on the results of the social science 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 September 2018)
2.1. Implement an agreed work plan to develop industry–government emergency aquatic animal disease response arrangements (the Aquatic Deed)

The department has provided a number of staff to work on the project and funded Animal Health Australia (AHA) to employ a project manager for a four year project. The AHA funded project will cease in September 2018.

A complete draft of the Aquatic Deed (deed) has been legally reviewed. Prospective parties have provided comment on this legally reviewed draft.

The Aquatic Deed Working Group met on 22-23 August 2018 to discuss comments provided by prospective parties and considered the need for any revisions to the draft. Some issues were identified as requiring further policy analysis or legal drafting. The next meeting is scheduled for October 2018, to consider proposed revisions to the agreement. It is anticipated that a revised version of the draft deed will be provided to parties after this meeting.

Further work is underway to evaluate the agreed cost sharing approaches for four diseases. This work aims to validate the appropriateness of the proposed cost sharing approaches in the deed.

The deed project team will complete further policy analysis and work with the legal team to draft changes that reflect the intent of prospective parties agreed at the meeting.

Development of communications material and stakeholder briefings are ongoing activities that aim to build understanding about the deed, particularly among prospective industry parties and within multiple levels of government.

In progress
2.2. Develop a program of national and sector-specific emergency aquatic animal disease response exercises, including field and operational activities

The SCAAH Emergency Response Exercises working group (WG) oversees implementation of this activity. The Terms of Reference (TOR) were discussed and updated at several SCAAH meetings from 2015-16, with the TORs finalised in October 2016.

Milestones 1-5 were completed from 2015 to 2016. WG activities were suspended for 15 months in December 2016, due to emergency response activities for the white spot disease outbreak in Queensland.

The WG met in February 2018 and agreed to map/document recent and currently planned exercises in each jurisdiction. In June 2018, the WG provided SCAAH with a questionnaire requesting information on recent and currently planned aquatic animal disease emergency response exercises in their jurisdiction. Responses to the survey will be analysed in September 2018 to identify gaps and an emergency aquatic animal disease exercise(s) will be developed to address national priorities relative to industry sectors and jurisdictions. A funding proposal will be developed for a 2019 exercise.

In progress
2.3. Strengthen national first-response capability to ensure inclusion of specific aquatic animal disease expertise

The 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 September 2018)
3.1. Identify possible improvements to increase the sensitivity of Australia’s passive surveillance systems for aquatic animal diseases

The SCAAH Increasing Sensitivity of Passive Surveillance Systems working group (WG) oversees implementation of this activity. The updated WG TOR were endorsed at SCAAH-32 (14-15 March 2018).

For phase 1, the WG agreed that a social science survey was required to identify any weaknesses and areas for improvement in Australia’s current passive surveillance system. Following a competitive tender process, an independent research company was selected by the WG, and commissioned by the department, to undertake the survey. Three aquaculture industry sectors and aquatic animal health suppliers to those industries will be surveyed.

The WG held an inception meeting with the successful supplier in June 2018 to confirm the project scope, objectives, methods and expected outcomes. A draft questionnaire for the qualitative in-depth interviews was developed and reviewed by the WG in August 2018, and interviews were completed in September 2018. The quantitative questionnaire is currently being developed and fieldwork is scheduled for late September 2018. The draft report is due at the end of October 2018 and the final report in November 2018.

Phase 1 was funded by the department, as part of the Australian Government Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiative.

Phase 2 of this activity will be developed based on the results of the social science survey.

In progress
3.2. Make the Aquatic animal diseases significant to Australia identification field guide available as an application for mobile devices

The 4th edition of the field guide was deployed as an app across Android, Windows and iOS platforms in March 2017.

Although this activity is complete, the 5th edition of the field guide is currently being developed to include current scientific information. Both the website version and the mobile app will be revised.

3.3. Undertake aquatic animal health benchmarking for specific aquaculture industry sectors

The SCAAH Benchmarking working group (WG) oversees implementation of this activity in order to establish production parameters across different industries. At a teleconference in June 2018, WG members suggested the abalone, barramundi, southern bluefin tuna, Murray cod and mainland salmonid industries as potential model industries for this project.

Phase 1 of the project will be undertaken by the WG. Each suggested industry will be surveyed (electronically) to gain a better understanding of the type(s) of production parameters that farmers currently monitor and record. Phase 2 of the project will use the survey results to establish a ‘charter of accounts’ for data collection, utilisation and storage for each industry; to ensure all farms in that industry collect data in the same way. A consultant will be engaged for the second phase of the project.

In progress
3.4. Adopt processes (new or existing) for formal recognition of validation status of diagnostic tests and identify specific test validation priorities

The 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) were funded by the department, as part of the Australian Government Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiative (see activity 3.6).

3.5. Develop stable positive control material and internal controls for molecular tests for detection of important endemic and exotic pathogens

The final report for 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 pending endorsement, but all project activities have been completed.

The quality assurance of controls and the distribution of protocols and DNA/RNA controls to laboratories are both complete. The provision of advice regarding implementation of protocols and troubleshooting based on feedback from participating laboratories are also both complete.

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 Australia

Projects on Abalone herpesvirus, Pilchard orthomyxo-like virus (POMV), prawn viruses and oyster oedema disease (OOD) are complete and reports are available on the FRDC website (FRDC Projects 2009/032, 2013/033 and 2013/036, respectively).

Projects investigating Yellow head virus genotypes, Perkinsus olseni, and Penaeus monodon mortality syndrome are ongoing (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) are funded by the department, as part of the Australian Government Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiative. 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 collections

Neptune is Australia’s aquatic animal health information system. It includes and extensive database of all published records of significant aquatic animal disease incidents in Australia, and a growing histopathological image collection to aid in diagnostics and training. The Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network (ABIN) ceased its hosting duties in 2014. The CSIRO agreed to host Neptune from 2015.

The department and CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) agreed on a two year project to recover and redevelop Neptune from the ABIN archive and permanently host it on CSIRO IT-infrastructure and make it available for Australia’s aquatic animal health community. The project commenced in July 2017 and a scoping study is now complete. An IT specialist was recruited to redevelop Neptune and manage scanning of additional histopathological slides into Neptune.

A prototype Neptune site has been developed on CSIRO systems. CSIRO-AAHL and the department are evaluating this prototype. Scanning of the slide collection is progressing and standardised annotation protocols for digitising slides will be considered by SCAAH.

This work was funded by the department, as part of the Australian Government Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper initiative.

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): OsHV-1, WSSV 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 has been drafted and will be sent to SCAAH for consideration and comment.

In progress

4. Improving availability of appropriate veterinary medicines

ActivityDescriptionStatus (as at September 2018)
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 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. The next meeting is planned for October 2018.

In progress
4.4. Strategically consider long-term regulatory conditions to address market failure for aquatic veterinary medicines

NAC 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 September 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 education

Work 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)

The SCAAH Educational Material for Industry on Disease Incidents working group (WG) oversees implementation 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