In for the long haul

Tas­ma­ni­ans find much to be gained from global co­op­er­a­tion

Fish Farmer - - Health -

Chris­tine Huynh, se­nior man­ager of fish health for Aus­tralian salmon farmer Tas­sal, will be the new chair of the Gill Health Ini­tia­tive steer­ing group. Tas­ma­nia’s ex­pe­ri­ence with AGD be­gan in 1986, shortly after the first salmon farms were estab­lished there, and it re­mains the most sig­nif­i­cant health prob­lem af­fect­ing salmon in the warmer con­di­tions of the re­gion. Aus­tralian ex­per­tise, there­fore, has been in­valu­able in global at­tempts to com­bat the chal­lenge.

Fresh­wa­ter baths have been used to treat AGD in Tas­ma­nia since the late 1980s. This has worked since day one, said Huynh, although the dis­ease is still a fi­nan­cial bur­den for the in­dus­try.

In Tas­ma­nia, AGD started as a sea­sonal is­sue but has be­come a year round prob­lem, which is prob­a­bly the way it will go in Scot­land, said Huynh.

‘If you look at Ire­land, it was a sea­sonal is­sue, mainly in the sum­mer, but that has now ex­tended out quite sub­stan­tially. We can’t be sure why that hap­pens but we’re do­ing a lot more re­search into it.’

CSIRO, the Syd­ney based Com­mon­wealth Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion, con­ducts re­search funded by Tas­sal – projects that also help the salmon in­dus­try world­wide.

The com­pany be­lieves there is much to be gained from global co­op­er­a­tion on health is­sues. But there is a prob­lem with the way the fund­ing mod­els work at the mo­ment, said Huynh.

‘There are re­search projects that are be­ing re­peated over­seas that have al­ready been done in Australia, or are un­der­way.

‘So, as an in­dus­try, we re­ally need to stream­line our re­search pri­or­i­ties and tell the re­search in­sti­tutes what these are so they have a bet­ter idea of what the in­dus­try needs –per­haps we need a fo­rum on­line to say what re­search projects are com­ing up.

‘Then it’s up to the re­search in­sti­tutes and the fund­ing providers to drive that com­mer­cial output so other coun­tries don’t go over the same ground that Australia has covered.’

The prob­lems are not ex­actly the same, how­ever. In Australia, the suite of pathogens are dif­fer­ent to those in Scot­land.

De­spite that, the coun­tries could col­lab­o­rate a lot more on AGD re­lated re­search and hy­dro­zoan (small jel­ly­fish that grow on the side of the nets) re­lated re­search, an area she be­lieves the Gill Health Ini­tia­tive could look at.

There seems to be a big will to co­op­er­ate among in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tists. Will the com­pa­nies co­op­er­ate to this ex­tent too?

‘For us that’s not a prob­lem at all,’ said Huynh. ‘The more you can im­prove in­ter­na­tional management of gill health, and the more you can learn off each other, the more ev­ery busi­ness is go­ing to ben­e­fit. Health isn’t a fac­tor that needs to be com­pet­i­tive.

‘So long as peo­ple are will­ing to col­lab­o­rate we can at least get more play­ers around the table to bring ex­tra knowl­edge.

‘I think we’re at the tip of the ice­berg. We’ve got re­searchers who un­der­stand the di­ag­nos­tic tests well, but we need to look at things like in­te­grated pest management, for ex­am­ple, and that might mean bringing in vet­eri­nary ex­perts in par­a­site management to lead the way.

‘Or we might de­cide we need to un­der­stand the epi­demi­ol­ogy of the dis­ease and how it trans­fers, and what type of re­search we need to do…and that’s an­other expert we can have in the room.’

She thinks sea lice are in­ter­est­ing but is ‘for­ever grate­ful that we don’t have that prob­lem. Now I’m go­ing to knock on wood and find the near­est tree and hug it!’

Apart from gill health, seals also pose a prob­lem for Tas­ma­nia’s salmon farm­ers – as do na­tive sharks, which cre­ate the holes in nets – ‘they’re very good at it’, said Huynh.

She can’t pre­dict how big a prob­lem this will be as Tas­sal de­vel­ops its new off­shore sites in Storm Bay - ‘we won’t know un­til we de­ploy some nets’. But she said there are a lot of sur­veys re­quired for en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ments so the com­pany un­der­stands the species that are around the area.

“As an in­dus­try, we re­ally need to stream­line our re­search ”

Above: Chris­tine Huynh

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