Global demand for seafood is rapidly increasing. To meet that demand, aquaculture production (122.6 million tonnes: USD 281.5 billion in 2020) is now greater than fisheries production. Over 20 times as many species are farmed in aquaculture worldwide (494 species), compared to terrestrial farming. Being a relatively young primary industry continual innovations occur which involve new species and farming methods. Consequently, the biggest limitation to aquaculture growth worldwide is new and emergent diseases.
Veterinary medicines play a valuable role in supporting aquatic animal health, welfare and production. In Australia, farmers must endeavour to use veterinary medicines that are registered or permitted by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). However, there are few medicines available for use in aquaculture with new permits taking several years to achieve. Reasons include market failure (i.e. low commercial incentive for pharmaceutical companies), limited funding, duplication in data collection, limited expertise and restrictive permits being applied for. This issue is highlighted in Australia’s strategic plan for aquatic animal health (AQUAPLAN).
To address this critical issue, our project (FRDC 2020-094) provides national coordination to prioritise, source funding and streamline data collection to gain minor use permits (MUPs), ensuring they are available to the sectors that may require them. Objectives include
1) document an off-label use framework that provides for emergency use while ensuring safety for the animal, consumers and the environment; 2) coordinate efficient MUP applications,
3) communication and awareness on safe and effective use of veterinary medicines, and
4) determine options for ongoing national coordination after the life of the project. To date we have sought AUD 375,000 across five projects for researchers to collect data to progress the following MUPs: Toltrazuril (antiparasitic) for marine and freshwater finfish; Oxytetracycline (antibiotic) for marine and freshwater crustaceans; Chloramine-T (broad spectrum disinfectant) for marine and freshwater finfish; Trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (antimicrobial) for marine and freshwater finfish; and Isoeugenol (sedative) for marine and freshwater crustaceans. As of December 2022, 31 MUPs have been renewed or a new permit has been issued since the project commenced.
Australian aquaculture is one of the fastest growing primary industries (up to 10%/year), soon to reach AUD 2 Billion farm gate. National coordination to ensure access to safe and effective veterinary medicines will be crucial to support aquatic animal health, welfare and increasing production in an ecologically sustainable manner into the future.