Diseases are one of the challenges limiting the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry. The occurrence, introduction and spread of pathogens of aquatic animals has increased over time due to the intensification of aquaculture, trade of aquatic animals and their derived products, resistance to antimicrobials and climate change. In addition, as new aquaculture species are explored and the industry expands geographically, diseases can surprise aquaculturists over time and affect productivity of stock and profitability of operations. The intent of a proactive approach to prevent diseases is captured in the 13th century Latin saying “it is better and more useful to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done”. Meeting the problem in time for pioneering tropical rock lobster aquaculturists involves tackling the challenges posed by exotic, endemic and emerging diseases in a responsible and efficient manner to ensure the sustainability of the industry. The first step towards prevention and preparedness in commercial-scale tropical rock lobster aquaculture in Australia, was to understand the risk and pathways of potential pathogen entry and disease outbreak. Equipped with an understanding of risk, the next step was development of an enterprise-level Hatchery Biosecurity Plan and implementation of protocols to reduce risk. Coupled with the Biosecurity Plan, a Health Surveillance and Management Plan was designed to deliver an early detection and rapid response mechanism for disease outbreaks and for new and emerging diseases. It is critical to train our people to understand pathogen risks, implement management measures, and be alert to signs and symptoms of disease in lobsters – all documented in the Biosecurity Plan. Staff involvement in system operations and husbandry are essential to succeed in our aim of disease prevention, early detection and control. A challenge for lobster aquaculture is the gap in knowledge of endemic lobster pathogens, detection tools, and the expense of surveillance. Strong collaboration with universities, government agencies, animal health laboratories, veterinarians and consultants to carry out R&D activities, apply diagnostic tools, and advise on management approaches is another critical component of the biosecurity system for the new tropical rock lobster aquaculture industry in Australia.
There are several benefits to a well-designed enterprise-level biosecurity plan. A good plan documents the processes to meet government regulatory requirements, opens opportunities for national and international markets, and contributes to the sustainable development of a productive and profitable lobster aquaculture industry in Australia.