Project number: 2006-243
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $62,980.00
Principal Investigator: Mehdi D. Doroudi
Organisation: Agriculture Victoria
Project start/end date: 14 Nov 2006 - 28 Jul 2008


In order to protect Australia's valuable abalone industry, there is a need to develop specific management strategies which incorporate disease monitoring, detection, response and control measures in both farm and wild stocks. These include the implementation of routine health management procedures and a system for the exclusion of virus. Health management strategies and codes of practice for both farmed and wild abalone harvest sectors and processing plants must be developed to improve productivity of farmed sector and to protect the health status of wild populations of abalone. The application of effective detection and exclusion or control methods incorporates into a workable biosecurity plan to minimise the impacts of this virus.


1. To develop a code of practice by improving physical, chemical and biological measures of biosecurity for abalone farms to prevent the introduction and spread of virus
2. To develop a code of practice for commercial divers to avoid the introduction and further spread of virus in wild populations of abalone
3. To develop a practical biosecurity program for abalone processing plants

Final report

ISBN: 978‐1‐74217‐390‐0
Author: Dr Brett Ingram
Final Report • 2009-08-18


In January 2006, a previously unknown herpes‐like virus was identified as being the most likely cause of mass mortalities of abalone (Haliotis spp.) in a number of aquaculture farms in south‐west and central Victoria (Hardy‐Smith, 2006).  The disease caused by the virus was named abalone viral ganglioneuritis.  The disease was subsequently found in marine waters adjacent to one of the infected farms resulting in mortalities in wild abalone populations.  The outbreak of the disease sparked concern about possible long‐term consequences for the abalone industry not only in Victoria, but also in the rest of Australia. There was a clear need to develop specific management strategies which incorporated disease monitoring, detection, response and control measures in both farmed and wild stocks.   

This project aims to develop Codes of Practice to standardise and improve the bio‐security measures currently in place in aquaculture farms and in commercial harvesting operations and processors.  For completeness, recreational divers and fishers are also included.

In developing these Codes of Practice, a robust and defensible process was undertaken to identify the key issues that need to be addressed by the wild harvest, recreational, aquaculture and processing sectors.  These issues were assessed and prioritised at a Risk Assessment Workshop conducted by an expert panel assembled from all Australian states with an abalone industry.  The panel included aquatic animal health specialists, representatives from industry and Government officials.  

The Risk Assessment Workshop identified the most important issues for each industry sector; control measures were developed, bearing in mind that knowledge of the virus was incomplete.  The controls were subsequently developed (in consultation with industry) into Codes of Practice that are comprised of a series of Standard Operating Procedures.

The adoption and implementation of the Codes of Practice by industry will increase bio‐security within the Australian abalone industry and minimise the risk of further outbreaks and the spread of abalone viral ganglioneuritis.

Keywords: Abalone, abalone viral ganglioneuritis, ganglioneuritis, bio‐security, aquatic animal health.

Final Report • 2009-08-18 • 766.04 KB
Code of Practice - Biosecurity Control Measures for Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis.pdf


This Code of Practice has been developed to standardise and improve the biosecurity measures currently in place in the Victorian abalone industry.  It was developed in consultation with industry as part of the FRDC Project “Development of management strategies for herpes‐like infection of abalone” Project No. 2006/243.  This Code of Practice is not a regulatory tool and as such does not stipulate minimum standards for compliance.  Rather, it aims to minimise the risk of outbreaks and spread of abalone viral ganglioneuritis through implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the following industry sectors: 
• commercial harvesting operations,
• recreational divers and fishermen,
• aquaculture farms, and
• processors.

Abalone viral ganglioneuritis (formerly known as abalone herpes‐like virus or ganglioneuritis) first appeared in southern Victoria in late 2005.  It had never been recorded in Australia before.  The disease can have a devastating impact on both wild and farmed abalone populations and it is therefore important that appropriate control measures are in place to minimise the impact of an outbreak.

Once abalone viral ganglioneuritis was identified as the cause of the disease outbreak, it was declared a notifiable disease under the Diseases of Livestock Act, 1994.  Abalone aquaculture farms affected by the virus voluntarily stopped the movement of stock to other farms.  The farms were subsequently de‐stocked and the facilities decontaminated. 

Although the source of the virus is unknown, early investigations concluded that the most likely source was live wild abalone brought onto a Victorian abalone farm (Hardy‐Smith, 2006).  Once clinical signs of the disease are expressed significant mortalities occur.

When the virus appeared in the marine environment in May 2006, the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) took steps to restrict entry into marine areas known to be infected with the virus.  Initially, the area around Port Fairy in south‐west Victoria was declared a Control Area and fishing and diving activities were restricted.  The aim was to minimise the risk of human activity transferring the disease to unaffected abalone populations elsewhere in the State.   To protect vulnerable stocks, the Control Area was replaced by a Fisheries Notice enforced by the Fisheries Act 1995 which extended the restricted area.  The Fisheries Notice specifically prohibited:
• taking of abalone, other shellfish and sea urchins,
• use of commercial abalone fishing equipment, and
• collection of any substrate.

Since abalone viral ganglioneuritis is a newly identified disease very little is currently known about either the disease or its causative agent.  This obviously places limitations on our understanding of the virus and effective methods of eliminating it.  Initial studies conducted at the Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong have shown that the virus is virulent and transmissible through the water column and direct contact with diseased abalone.

In September 2006, a panel of International and Australian experts on aquatic animal diseases were brought together by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and abalone industry groups in a separate process to this project.  These experts considered the existing evidence and identified the following key knowledge gaps on the virus.

This Code of Practice has been developed to identify the key activities that should be undertaken by commercial harvesters, recreational divers and fishermen, aquaculture farms and processors to improve the biosecurity of their current operational procedures with respect to abalone viral ganglioneuritis.  It recognises the key knowledge gaps described above.  SOPs have been developed for each of the sectors using the outcomes of a risk assessment workshop that identified and prioritised key issues (see Gavine, et al. 2008).  The control measures developed to address the identified issues form the basis of the SOPs. 

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