Aquatic animals, like terrestrial animals and humans, can be affected by infectious diseases, which may be caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and parasites. Infection and disease in aquatic animals is normal, but can become severe under certain conditions. Such conditions can include the introduction of new diseases to a population; or conditions that promote disease, such as host animal stress.
There are very few diseases of aquatic animals that are known to have implications for human health.
It is important that aquatic animal health is managed effectively to protect the sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries, the productivity of aquaculture industries, access to international markets for Australian seafood industries, and aquatic environments.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources leads and coordinates the national management of aquatic animal health in Australia.
The program’s three main roles are:
To provide national co-ordination and leadership for aquatic animal health management, including:
- Supporting national committees responsible for aquatic animal health.
- Development and management of AQUAPLAN, Australia’s National Strategic Plan for Aquatic Animal Health.
- Managing Australia’s aquatic animal disease surveillance and reporting system.
To contribute to enhanced aquatic animal disease emergency preparedness and response, including:
- Maintenance of AQUAVETPLAN, Australia’s Aquatic Veterinary Emergency Plan.
- Supporting the Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (AqCCEAD) to coordinate the national technical response to disease emergencies.
To provide leadership in international aquatic animal health activities, including:
- Contributing to the development of international standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
- Activities to support aquatic animal health management capacity in the Asia-Pacific region. Information on Australia’s quarantine policies to protect aquatic animal health is available through the Department's Animal web pages.
There are practical things that everyone can do to help protect the health of Australia’s aquatic animals. Please see our ‘What you can do to help’ page for further information.