Australia’s aquatic animals are free from many diseases that occur overseas, providing us with a competitive advantage in both production and trade. Australian aquaculture has grown from an industry valued at AU$260 million in 1993 to an industry valued at AU$1.6 billion in 2020 (ABARES, 2021). This dramatic growth has been accompanied by the emergence of new diseases/infectious agents, e.g., NNV since 1989, Bonamia since 1992, OOD since 2006, OsHV since 2010, POMV since 2012, new YHV genotypes since 2013, PMMS since 2015 and WSD since 2016, all of which threaten the sustainability of major aquaculture enterprises. Consequently, the need for health research to support this expanding sector is also growing. The wild-harvest, recreational, Indigenous and ornamental sectors are also under threat; e.g., crayfish plague, Edwardsiella ictaluri in catfish, Perkinsus in oysters, WSD in crustacea and gourami iridovirus in a range of finfish species pose significant risks.
Thus, identification and prioritisation of aquatic animal health and biosecurity research and capacity building needs to be coordinated across all aquatic sectors to ensure synergy while avoiding duplication. FRDC, through AAHBRCP, plays a major role in addressing research needs and training in aquatic animal health and biosecurity and is able to direct funding priorities to the most pressing areas. AAHBRCP provides a cohesive national approach to FRDC-supported R&D by providing leadership, direction and focus for health R&D and other related non-R&D activities. According to an external review of AAHBRCP undertaken in 2015 the consensus among major stakeholders was that AAHBRCP provides an essential service for the aquatic animal sector. Given the success of the AAHBRCP there is a need to continue it as a means of providing the service with consideration given to adjustments (reflected in this proposal) to enhance the service it provides for the evolving needs of Australia’s seafood industry, public policy and program needs