Aquatic health and biosecurity

Animal Health Australia (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 animal health is threatened by a number of diseases, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites which have potentially devastating impacts on aquaculture and our aquatic ecosystems. These threats are commonly introduced through people, water, birds and other aquatic animals. Good aquatic biosecurity practices will help reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering a system and spreading.

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 exotic or ornamental (aquarium) fish in local waterways – many of these fish are exotic to Australia and may pose a risk to native fish
  • ensure maintenance and cleanliness of your boat, especially when travelling to a new location
  • ensuring the antifouling or your water vessels 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, Water and the Environment 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 Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 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.

Aquatic exercises

Animal Health Australia has been involved with a number of simulation exercises for Members, either through the Rapid Response Team (RRT) program (now the National Biosecurity Response Team) or as specially funded projects.

Previous aquatic exercises with Animal Health Australia involvement include:

  • The Marine Pest Exercise 
  • Exercise Fintan 

Reporting hotlines

If 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 on 1800 065 522

Western Australia

Call Fishwatch on 1800 815 507

Northern Territory

Phone 0413 381 094


Phone: 13 25 23 or 07 3404 6999