Project number: 2001-253
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $87,038.00
Principal Investigator: Barbara Nowak
Organisation: University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Project start/end date: 30 Jan 2002 - 30 Jun 2003


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.


1. To provide a qualitative fish health risk assessment for the tuna aquaculture industry in Australia.
2. To review tuna health information from the industry (including their database), research organisations and scientific literature.
3. To identify areas of highest risk and propose management control measures for the industry, as well as research priorities.
4. To disseminate the results of this SBT health risk assessment project.

Final report

ISBN: 1 86295 099 7
Author: Barbara Nowak
Final Report • 2003-07-24 • 3.42 MB


The rapidly developing international tuna aquaculture industry started with a joint Japan/ Australia experiment in 1991. Since then it has grown into the largest finfish aquaculture in Australia with an export value of $290 million. It is based on the capture of wild fish and subsequent fattening of these fish in pontoons over a period of 3-6 months. Continuous husbandry improvements ensure very low mortality. This project was developed to review all available information on SBT health, assess current and potential risks in this area and provide the basis for future research and development in the area of SBT health.

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