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Aquatic Biosecurity

AHA has been working with representatives from the major aquaculture and wild catch industry sectors, together with Government representatives on the development of an Aquatic Deed which will determine emergency response and cost share arrangements for future aquatic emergency animal disease events.


Aquatic animals can be affected by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Diseases can move rapidly through the aquatic environment via infected live aquatic animals, dead aquatic animals, contaminated water and movement of people and things such as nets and boats. Risks to Australia’s aquatic industries can come from many sources, such as aquarium (ornamental) fish, bait, seafood sold for human consumption, ballast water, vessel movements and fishing and boating equipment.

Good biosecurity practices within the aquatic industries will help reduce the impacts of certain diseases by enabling early and effective responses, as well as reducing the impacts on productivity. These pests and diseases can devastate our aquatic ecosystems causing significant damage to our economy, environment and lifestyle.

Everyone who has access to the aquatic environment in Australia, whether it be for business or recreation has a part to play in maintaining our aquatic biosecurity. This can include:

  • Keeping fishing equipment clean
  • Only using bait that has been wild-caught from your local area or from a reputable supplier
  • do not dispose of your ornamental (aquarium) fish in local waterways if you are no longer able to maintain their upkeep – many of these fish are exotic to Australia and may pose a risk to native fish
  • Do not release exotic species into Australian waterways. Tilapia are considered a pest in Australia and earlier this year Peacock Bass (an Amazon predator species) were found in a Mackay dam.
  • ensure maintenance and cleanliness of your boat, especially when travelling to a new location
  • ensuring the antifouling is up to date
  • Report marine pests and unusual species promptly to your state department

Marine pests

Marine pests are aquatic animals and plants that are exotic to Australia. They can have severe impacts on our ecosystems. To date over 250 marine pests have been introduced into Australian waters, usually by human activities e.g. shipping, fishing, aquariums and tourism. Getting rid of these pests is very difficult once they are established.

Marine pests:

  • include fish, aquatic plants and other animals
  • compete with native species important to our economy and conservation
  • damage aquatic environments reducing attractiveness and social enjoyment of aquatic areas
  • foul aquaculture and industrial infrastructure
  • pose health risks such as harmful algal blooms
  • can be found in freshwater, estuaries and marine environments.


A list of Australia’s notifiable diseases affecting aquatic animals can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Water resources website.

Whether you work in the industry or not, anyone can help protect our aquaculture and fisheries industries by learning what signs of disease to look for, and reporting anything unusual to your state department of agriculture or primary industries. Developed by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Aquatic Animal Diseases Significant to Australia: Identification Field Guide 5th Edition will help you to identify significant aquatic diseases and is available as an app.

Reporting hotlines

I you believe you have found a new marine pest, report your find to the department of agriculture or primary industries in the state or territory in which you found it.

New South Wales
Phone: (02) 4916 3877 (recorded 24 hour service)

Phone: 13 61 86

Phone: (03) 6777 2200

South Australia
Call Fishwatch o​n 1800 065 522

Western Au​​​stralia
Call Fishwatch on 1800 815 507

The No​​rthern Territory
Phone 0413 381 094

Phone: 13 25 23 or 07 3404 6999


Page reviewed: 19/06/2020