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Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Page: 3799

Senator Milne asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 17 June 2008:

In December 2005 the Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis (AVG) disease was found in a land-based abalone farm in Victoria, by May 2006 the virus had escaped into the wild surrounding Port Ferry in western Victoria and has since spread eastwards approximately 240 km along the coast towards Melbourne with up to 90 per cent mortality of wild abalone stocks: Has the Minister taken any action to protect the Australian abalone industry from the threat from AVG; if not, why not.

Senator Sherry (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) —The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has taken action to protect the Australian abalone industry in collaboration and consultation with Victoria. While there is no constitutional authority for the Commonwealth to direct a state government on management of a disease occurring solely within that state’s borders, national arrangements are in place for managing aquatic animal diseases under certain circumstances and these were utilised in the response to abalone viral ganglioneuritis.

These arrangements include consultation through the Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (AqCCEAD - chaired by the Commonwealth) on the national technical response to the emergency, and through the Aquatic Animal Health Committee (AAHC) on on-going management of the disease. The arrangements also include guidance through the Australia Aquatic Veterinary Emergency Plan (AQUAVETPLAN). The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) has engaged in the deliberations of both of these committees.

The department has commissioned an AQUAVETPLAN disease strategy manual for abalone viral ganglioneuritis which will provide an agreed Australian approach to the management of possible future outbreaks of the disease. Once completed, the manual will undergo a rigorous endorsement process including review by technical experts and industry, and endorsement by governments.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry considers efforts to limit the spread of the disease to be of significant economic and environmental importance. On 5 May 2008 the Australian Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer met with representatives of the wild-capture abalone industry from Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia in Melbourne to discuss alternative approaches to mitigating the risks posed by this disease.

Officers from the department held further discussions with abalone industry representatives (from Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia) and other users (such as recreational fishers and Victorian National Parks Association) on 12 June 2008. The discussions assisted industry to consider their co-ordinated approach to the development of a national abalone work plan. On 18 June 2008, officers from the department contributed to the further development of a national abalone health work plan at a meeting of industry, state government, and other stakeholder representatives.

The department has clearly indicated its support for the development and implementation of a national abalone health workplan and has lead the implementation of several work plan activities that are considered a high priority by stakeholders. These and other ongoing activities are assisting the abalone industry and jurisdictions to identify and prioritise cooperative measures and actions that may reduce the risk of further disease spread and improve disease management.

The department continues to liaise closely and actively with the Victorian Government and the abalone industry to assist in an active response to this disease.