Relatively few major disease events have occurred within the NSW aquaculture industries, and as a result there has not been an integrated multi-agency approach developed. To date, emergencies have been dealt with on an ad hoc basis and no large scale eradication programs have been undertaken with respect to aquatic animal diseases. It follows that relatively little experience in handling such emergencies currently exists within the department of NSW Fisheries. In the absence of a real-life emergency to provide “on-the-job” training, simulation exercises provide a practical alternative to expose and train staff in the management of aquatic disease emergencies.
The need can be summarised as follows:
1. Both government and industries have relatively little experience with real emergencies.
2. Currently within NSW there is no cohesive management strategy setting out the roles and responsibilities of individuals and agencies involved. NSW Fisheries and NSW Agriculture are jointly examining ways of applying the NSW disaster plan to cover aquatic emergencies.
3. The limited number of previous disease emergencies has led to some industry complacency about the risks of disease introduction and the potentially devastating effects.
4. A lack of experience amongst the agencies that have jurisdiction over the management of aquatic animals may lead to a delayed or inadequate response to a disease emergency. This delay may allow greater spread of disease, loss of Australia’s disease free trading status and potentially disastrous effects on wild fisheries and ecosystems.
The Oyster Farmers Association of NSW, NSW Farmers’ Association Oyster Section, National Aquaculture Council, Queensland Oyster Growers’ Association previously provided letters of support. Members from each of these industry groups will participate in the development of this project and the exercise itself. Safefood have expressed an interest to provide advice to appropriately address any human health issues. Selected QDPI staff will attend.
AQUAPLAN was generated as a National Strategic Plan for Aquatic Animal Health in recognition of the growing importance of protecting fisheries and aquaculture industries from disease. This project allowed NSW Fisheries to begin implementing one component of the National AQUAPLAN objectives, improving management of exotic disease outbreaks. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia (AFFA) have assisted this process through staging disease simulation exercises in several States. This project was the first exercise of its kind to directly involve NSW Fisheries.
A fictional scenario called “Exercise Kilpatrick” was created to simulate an exotic oyster disease outbreak for the two day training exercise. The emergency response system on which the exercise was based, is compatible with that of the generic National AQUAPLAN approach and with the NSW State Disaster Plan (DISPLAN). The first day involved the formation of the State Disease Control Headquarters (SDCHQ) for training of NSW Fisheries management. The group were challenged to respond to a scenario involving the outbreak of a serious disease on a Hawkesbury River oyster farm. The second day of the exercise was a workshop, involving industry and field staff, assessing the practicalities of attempting to control/eradicate an oyster disease outbreak in an open waterway.
Nineteen NSW Fisheries staff (including senior management), three interstate government representatives, three interstate and two NSW industry representatives, and four staff from other NSW Government agencies participated in formation of the SDCHQ on day one of the exercise (“Exercise Kilpatrick”). The second day of the exercise involved nine industry representatives, eight NSW Fisheries field officers and several other NSW and interstate government representatives in a workshop assessing the practicalities of attempting to control a disease outbreak in an open waterway.
Keywords: Aquatic animal emergency disease management, aquaculture, oyster, emergency disease response.