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International Waters: Australian Iridovirus Submissions New Under Review

By John Dawes

Shortly after we published my last piece on the “Draft Import Risk Analysis Report on Importation of Freshwater Ornamental Finfish: review of the biosecurity risks associated with gourami iridovirus and related viruses” (*see Footnote) issued by Biosecurity Australia (BA), the texts of all the submissions received by BA were published on its website.

Trichogaster Leeri
Could cichlids, gouramis and livebearers end up on the restricted or prohibited list once the Australian iridovirus submissions have been considered by the Australian authorities? Credit: John Dawes

Not surprisingly, quite a few interested parties—besides the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA), Ornamental Fish International (OFI) and the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)—sent in submissions. Not all, by any means, are in agreement with the views expressed by PIAA, OFI and AVA, with some calling for even stricter measures. In total, there were 18 submissions, falling into two main categories: those supporting tighter control measures and those that feel at least some of the IRA’s conclusions are based on poor science.

Those in favor of tighter controls include: the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Fisheries (Western Australia), Department of Primary Industries (New South Wales),  Department of Primary Industries (Victoria), Department of Primary Industries and Water (Tasmania), National Aquaculture Council and Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA). The last of these is concerned with recreational fisheries, i.e. fishing, as is another supporter of the proposals, RECFISH Australia, which “represents the substantial interests of recreational fishers (approximately 3.5 million fishers in an industry worth approximately $1.9 billion [AUD]).” Of the above submissions, some actually call for even more stringent controls than those proposed in the draft IRA report.

There are also four individual submissions—all representing established businesses—of which three are in favor of the proposals. One comes from a fish hatchery, which is apparently the only establishment from the Australian mainland that is allowed to transport goldfish varieties to Tasmania because its stocks are considered disease-free with regard to pathogens considered exotic to Australia. Another supporter specializes in native Australian plants for aquaria, while the third is a producer of free-range barramundi “for restaurants and discerning customers.”

Those critical of one or more aspects of the draft IRA report, consist, in addition to the PIAA, OFI and AVA, of the Department of Fisheries (Thailand), the Ornamental Fish Association of Australia, the Singapore Aquarium Fish Exporters’ Association (SAFEA) and an individual submission from a private ornamental fish company.

Supporters of the draft report, which proposes stricter import and quarantine controls that could result in major restrictions or even a ban on imports of cichlids, livebearers and gouramis into Australia, outnumber those critical of it by two to one. Among these supporters there are some real “heavyweights,” such as government departments and organizations that represent major revenue-generating industries, such as fishing and angling.

The critics, for their part, have put forward strong, well-argued cases, especially regarding the need for good science to be observed and applied before any legally binding final document is produced. However, as we know only too well, good, strong, well-reasoned arguments don’t always win the day.

So, how will BA balance the need to protect Australia’s native fish fauna with the need to allow legal, ethical trade to continue without breaching international trade agreements, such as those highlighted by OFI, PIAA and SAFEA in their submissions? I await further news with great interest! <HOME>

*Click here for the full text of the draft import risk analysis that has given rise to deep concerns within the industry (as I have reported in previous editions) owing to its potentially devastating implications for both exporters of certain ornamental fish to Australia, as well as its importers.


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International Waters: Australian Iridovirus Submissions New Under Review

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