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New Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory opens to boost aquaculture industry

DPIRD’s new Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory, in Perth’s northern suburbs, will boost the department’s scientific capacity and support the WA’s growing aquaculture industry.

A $1 million Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory was opened recently in Perth to boost the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) capacity to support and protect the State’s rapidly growing aquaculture industry.

The new state-of-the-art facility at Marmion, in Perth’s northern suburbs, will enhance the department’s scientific research and biosecurity endeavours to improve the productivity and health of Western Australian aquaculture stocks.

The State’s aquaculture industry has more than doubled over the past decade and in 2017/18 was worth $20 million.

New licencing information suggests this growth will accelerate in coming years, particularly based on the production of finfish and shellfish, such as barramundi, yellowtail kingfish, oysters and abalone.

The new laboratory will bring together aquatic animal health scientists from the department and other government organisations, university partners and industry to assist aquaculture disease investigations and responses and pursue applied research and development.

Biosecurity

It is important to maintain a strong aquatic animal health research capability to support the continued growth of the State’s aquaculture industry and protect it from the threat of disease.

The Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory features four new high-spec laboratories, including examination and sampling rooms, which complement the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre’s existing wet facilities.

The additions include a high-tech DNA laboratory and a cutting-edge cell culture laboratory, to assist scientists to identify emerging pathogens and to understand their distribution and dynamics, as well as their potential to cause disease.

High-throughput sample processing robots and other specialist equipment will help fast-track disease diagnosis and assess fish and shellfish immunity to pathogens.

With access to high quality seawater at the facility, scientists will be able to investigate the relationships between pathogens, aquatic animals and their environment in aquarium controlled conditions.

The laboratories meet the highest industry standards (PC2) required to contain pathogens and prevent their spread.

Research and development

The new Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory is based within the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre at Watermans Bay in Perth’s northern suburbs.

The centre houses a collaboration of the nation’s leading Indian Ocean research organisations, including DPIRD, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the CSIRO and the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

Research currently underway includes:

  • North West Shoals to Shore Research program – studying the effects of seismic energy on pearl oysters
  • pearl oyster health and productivity improvement –supporting the iconic pearling industry
  • increasing production and value of yellow tail kingfish aquaculture through feed and disease resistance improvements
  • developing new detection tools for potential parasites of abalone.

Supporting industry growth

These new facilities enable the department to extend its applied aquatic animal health research capacity, complementing existing disease diagnostic and aquaculture services provided by the government and industry.

Ensuring high quality aquatic animal health is imperative to assist and protect the sustainable growth of WA’s burgeoning aquaculture industry.

While the State has enviable environmental credentials that underpin finfish and shellfish production, it is important to ensure the department has the capacity to diagnose diseases and carry out research projects in order to manage and overcome any aquatic animal health challenges that may arise in the future.

For more information contact Dr Cecile Dang, principal research scientist, Waterman, +61 (0)8 9203 0379.