Disease is a significant issue for abalone aquaculture: significant mortalities result in substantial financial setbacks on some farms (Fleming, 2003). In South Australia, mass mortalities due to summer high temperatures are of serious concern. In all Australian farms some mortalities result during handling and transportation. Health is identified as a strategic research area required to develop a profitable industry in the Abalone Aquaculture Subprogram Strategic Plan. Particular needs identified were to “increase and apply knowledge of programs to survey the health status of stock on farms” and to “increase and apply knowledge of stress, its effect on production performance and strategies to minimise stress during production”. This project will contribute directly towards these aims, first by establishing normal ranges for many immunological parameters in abalone. This will allow future health monitoring programs to use these parameters. Second, we will assess the value of adding immunological parameters to the histological assessment used in the South African abalone monitoring program. Third, we will determine how stressors, nominated by farm managers as occurring in normal abalone farm processes affect the immune system. This should lead to specific recommendations for minimizing stress or maximizing health under stressful conditions.
This research will pave the way to improve health and productivity in Australian abalone aquaculture. By trialing various physiological and immunological assays we can find the most efficient and reliable set of parameters for future studies. We will also establish the natural variation in these, and thus provide the controls needed when investigating any aspect of abalone husbandry. Another goal of the FRDC subprogram strategic plan is “To improve the profitability of production”, through increased growth and survivorship. By testing the effects of genetics, environmental requirements, husbandry and nutrition on abalone immunity, we should be able to make recommendations for maximizing survivorship and productivity. Currently husbandry practices are monitored via mortality and poor growth. These are very crude measures of problems on the farm, and occur well after the event, which prevents any proactive response.
Fleming, A. 2003. Final report of FRDC project no. 2000/200: Abalone Aquaculture Subprogram: Facilitation, administration and promotion. Appendix 1 in Proceedings of the 10th Annual Abalone Aquaculture Workshop, 19-21st November, 2003, Port Lincoln, Australia. Fleming, A.E. (Editor). Abalone Aquaculture Subprogram, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, Australia.