Net tightens on aquatic pests
Australia's ability to protect the health of its aquatic resources has made a major advance with the opening of the South Australian Aquatic Biosecurity Centre at the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy Campus.
The $2.4m facility, funded by the South Australian Government through Marine Innovation SA (MISA), positions South Australia to become a key national provider in aquatic biosecurity research.
The South Australian Aquatic Biosecurity Centre provides researchers with highly secure conditions for the study of aquatic pathogens and pests, offering capabilities previously unavailable in Australia because of its combination of scale and level of containment.
The facility is jointly operated by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and the University.
"Safe research involving aquatic pathogens and pests, once limited in Australia, can now be conducted in a secure environment that enables a rapid response to new threats, and ongoing research to help safeguard our valuable aquatic resources," said the Member for Light, Mr Tony Piccolo MP, who officially launched the new centre last month.
"Such research is critical to the continued growth of the State's $800m (gross food revenue) seafood industry," he said.
"Some organisms pose a threat to our seafood producers and aquatic ecosystems, and it is imperative that we can deal with these issues quickly, and preferably before they impact on our fishing industries and our coastal ecosystems."
The CEO of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, Brian Jeffriess, said the Aquatic Biosecurity Centre was an important step forward for the Australian seafood industry.
"Australia's geographical isolation is no longer enough to protect us from the continuing major fish disease events in Asia and South America. This new biosecurity facility was developed with these realities front of mind," he said.
MISA Chair Professor Rob Lewis said MISA identified the urgent need for a highly secure aquatic biosecurity centre in 2005.
"The benefits of this type of research to marine industries are enormous, including increased certainty of production, improved sustainability and market access," Professor Lewis said.
The Executive Director of PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Professor Mehdi Doroudi, agreed: "It is crucial for government and industry to be prepared for unexpected outbreaks and respond rapidly and appropriately."
The Aquatic Biosecurity Centre is co-located with the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, offering researchers access to the School's state-of-the art diagnostic laboratories and its veterinary specialists.
University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha said having the centre within the School grounds gave students opportunities to study aquatic animal health within the veterinary curriculum, which is unique in Australia.
"The University is pleased to host the SA Aquatic Biosecurity Centre, which will deliver great benefits in collaborative research and training in one of the State's most important but developing industries," he said.
"This purpose-built centre will strengthen our animal research and teaching capacity at the Roseworthy Campus, building on our expertise in production animals, companion animals and equine health.
"Our students will have the opportunity to learn in a state-of-the-art facility beside internationally recognised researchers. They will be able to take this unique experience and knowledge and apply it as animal science and veterinary professionals in a range of settings."
MISA's Marine Pests Program Leader, Dr Marty Deveney, said a priority for the centre would include research into Perkinsus olseni, a protozoan parasite that causes serious disease in abalone.
"It's a problem in the Central and Western Zone abalone fisheries in SA, with the first outbreaks noted in the early 1980s. Prior to this new facility, there was nowhere to safely study the pathogen on a large scale. There are environmental factors that influence its expression of disease, but we don't know what they are. We will now be able to design experiments to better understand these factors in this new lab," he said.