What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity is the protection of industries, the environment and public well-being, health, amenity and safety from negative impacts of pests, diseases, and weeds.
Biosecurity Tasmania, a division of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania, undertakes surveillance and regulatory activities to prevent the movement and establishment of biosecurity matters. Biosecurity Tasmania provides support and advice to salmon farmers to enable management of biosecurity risks, including established and emerging pest species and diseases.
What is animal welfare?
Animal welfare is the protection of the health and well-being of animals. The Tasmanian Animal Welfare Act 1993 applies to salmonid farming, the same as any industry involving animal husbandry.
How are biosecurity and animal welfare managed?
The Tasmanian Salmonid Health Surveillance Program (TSHSP) is an aquatic animal health service that monitors fish health and detects new or emerging diseases before they become a problem.
Under the TSHSP, the Department, with support from the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers’ Association and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, operates the Centre for Aquatic Animal Health and Vaccines (CAAHV), an aquatic animal health diagnostics and disease research facility. The Centre, together with Biosecurity Tasmania’s Animal Health Laboratory, oversees aquatic animal disease surveillance, health testing and disease diagnosis, and research and development of responsive fish health diagnostic capabilities. The CAAHV has led the development of five salmonid vaccines to improve fish health and enable industry growth.
The salmon industry must only use antibiotics in line with the Department's Code of Practice for the Supply and Use of Veterinary Chemical Products and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Code of Practice for prescription and use of products which contain antimicrobial agents. Antibiotic use has declined in recent years as the development of vaccines has helped reduce the need to administer antibiotics.
Mangement Controls within Marine Farming Development Plans
Marine Farming Development Plans (Plans) set out areas where marine farming can occur. Plans contain management controls to mitigate and manage potential negative effects of marine farming within the plan area.
Several management controls cover both biosecurity and animal welfare. To ensure areas are not over-stocked, lessees are required to comply with limits on carrying capacity for leases that they operate. These limits may be set according to stocking density or biomass. For both biosecurity and animal welfare reasons, lessees are required to promptly report any significant incident of fish escapes to the Department and to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), and recover escaped fish as directed.
Management controls relating to disease require that lessees report notifiable diseases (in accordance with the Animal Health Act 1995), remove dead fish from cages, report fish mortalities, participate in fish health management plans or fish biosecurity programs and ensure that fish from different year classes (age groups) do not mix. To help prevent the potential transfer of disease between different year classes, lessees must maintain physical separation between fish of different year classes at specified distances and regulate the stocking of fish within zones at specified distances and timeframes.
Lessees must also comply with the requirements of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1995, and maintain detailed records of all chemicals used on the lease area. In relation to animal welfare, this includes therapeutants, anaesthetics, antibiotics, and hormones.
To farm salmon, companies must hold a marine farming licence issued under the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and an environmental licence issued under the Environmental Management and Pollution Controls Act 1994. These licences contain the licence holder’s location (marine farming lease locality), the species of fish being farmed, the licence period, and operational conditions and restrictions.
Several licence conditions relate to biosecurity measures. Licence holders must not release fish into State waters and are required to immediately notify the Department of any significant illness, mortality or disease in their fish. Licence holders must also keep detailed records of all fish brought onto and taken off the lease to enable rapid response in the event of an emergency. These records include the date, species, class, quantity, and source or destination of the consignment of fish.
Salmon farming companies must report to the Department the use, quantity and active ingredients of therapeutants including antibiotics but excluding vaccines. Prior to any stock being treated with therapeutants, the licence holder must advise the Department and be recieve appropriate authorisation. The licence holder must also comply with any requirements related to residue testing.
All marine farming and environmental licences for salmon can be viewed on LISTmap. Information (metrics) on production, fish health, mortalities, escapes and other marine farming related activities, is publicly available via the Tasmanian Salmon Farming Data Portal (Salmon Portal).
Salmon Biosecurity Program
The Department has worked extensively with the salmon industry to develop the new Biosecurity Program: Tasmanian Salmonid Industry (the program) that is regulated and enforced under the Biosecurity Act 2019. The program is based on a number of spatially defined biosecurity zones, within which specific biosecurity standards are applied; for example, disposal of waste, fish management, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and the movement of boats and marine farming equipment within and between biosecurity zones.
The program was authorised by the Secretary on 9 January 2023 and implementation will take place throughout 2023 as Government works closely with industry.