Aquaculture systems worldwide are impacted by algal blooms affecting food safety, market access, animal health and production. The variety of harmful algal species and toxins involved has led to the requirement for a high level of expertise and complex testing services to effectively manage risk, resulting in increasing costs to industry. Aquaculture is particularly exposed to risk, due to the confined nature of production, however wild fisheries can also be impacted.
A variety of recurrent harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur in Tasmania, impacting a broad range of user groups including commercial sectors for both wild_catch fisheries and aquaculture (combined value AUD 1.1B), recreational and Indigenous fishers. The toxins accumulate in a range of seafood in levels that could cause illness in humans, and therefore regulatory standards exist to manage the domestic and export trade. Risk to recreational and Indigenous fishers is managed through public health warnings when monitoring of commercial fisheries highlights an issue.
Currently the different Tasmanian seafood sectors are managed through separate processes and organisations, with varying levels of technical expertise available to each sector. Data sharing occurs in a highly bespoke, and in some cases ad hoc, manner with no easy-to-access system that can collate and display all HAB data to provide current state-wide situational awareness. Some industries benefit considerably from the monitoring activities of the aquaculture bivalve sector. The lack of a centralised system inhibits sharing costs of regulatory monitoring or leveraging of monitoring in researcher activities.
A cost benefit study is being undertaken to determine the net benefit of biotoxin risk management to the various fishing industry stakeholder groups in Tasmania. Options for integrated risk management (where resources, data and expertise are shared) are being considered, where these will account for the variable fishing activity, risk profiles, and toxin accumulation/depuration kinetics between species and fisheries. This collaborative process with stakeholders is seen as the first step towards building a collaborative program for the state.