While the economically valuable tuna aquaculture industry has not been affected by major disease outbreaks to date, further development and possible intensification of not only tuna aquaculture, but aquaculture in general in the tuna farming regions, will increase the risk of fish health problems in the future. Significant disease related mortality are best prevented by recognising and managing risks before they become a major issue.
At present there is a wide range of information from TBOASA SBT heath surveys and the provision of a diagnostic service to industry, however, this information has not previously been used to identify and reduce risks. Published scientific literature also contains reports on SBT fish health issues, as well as other finfish health risks relevant to SBT aquaculture and there is a clear need to review all the information available.
The economic value of this project is difficult to quantify, but the extensive tuna mortalities in April-May 1996 due to the effects of a storm, highlight the potential impact and cost of a serious disease outbreak. In 1996, 70% of the tuna held by the industry died within a few weeks, this equating to a 1999/2000 market value of $141 million. Such a loss would result in serious economic and job loss to a major regional area of South Australia, with flow on effects elsewhere.