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Aquatic Disease Response Capabilities put to the Test

24 October 2012

AUSTRALIA - South Australia’s aquatic animal disease response capabilities will be under the microscope in coming weeks, as part of a national exercise to test our emergency response preparedness.

Exercise Sea Fox will bring together more than 70 government and industry representatives from across Australia to develop and practice the skills and procedures required when responding to an aquatic animal disease outbreak.

The three-part exercise began in Port Lincoln on 23 October and includes visits to aquaculture farms, workshops and a desktop exercise to improve awareness of national and state emergency response arrangements.

Executive Director of PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Professor Mehdi Doroudi, said exercises such as Sea Fox were essential for preparing government and industry personnel for a real emergency event.

“The South Australian aquaculture industry relies on our world-class biosecurity reputation to be able to produce some of the most sought after, premium quality seafood in the world,” Professor Doroudi said.

“By involving industry and government in an exercise of this nature we aim to enhance the State’s preparedness for responding to an emergency aquatic animal disease outbreak.”

Exercise Sea Fox will involve a hypothetical exercise based on an outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) – an aquatic disease that is considered a high threat to the State’s oyster sector. While POMS does not pose a risk to human health it has previously caused significant economic damage to oyster growing industries in France and New Zealand.

South Australian Oysters Growers Association President Jill Coates said the exercise was vital to enhancing knowledge and skills in responding to aquatic disease outbreaks.

“This is about testing response procedures, identifying any shortcomings, and ensuring we know what to do if we had a real disease outbreak,” Ms Coates said.

“The outcomes of Sea Fox will also help update state and national emergency response frameworks and importantly, contribute to the development of national POMS-specific response plans.”

Exercise Sea Fox is a joint initiative of PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture, Biosecurity SA, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, as part of a national objective to develop Australia’s capacity to prevent and manage disease outbreaks.

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