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Update on the iridovirus batch testing issue


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This is a report of the conversation I had last night with Shane Willis from Aquarium Industries. Before I continue I must stress that although I did inform Shane that I would be reporting our conversation, nothing in this post should be taken as a direct quote of what Shane said, nor should it be seen as representing the views of Aquarium Industries. This is simply my interpretation and my understanding of the conversation. It was also quite late and I was pretty tired. Any numbers provided are merely to give you an approximate idea not intended to be a hard fact. I hope at least to give hobbyists a view of where we're at and open a discussion about what actions we should take.

One of the perceptions I held until last night was that the big wholesalers like AI and Bayfish weren't particularly worried about this because they wouldn't be that badly affected. My reading of the recommendation suggested that it was more economical when large numbers were being imported. So I thought it would only be the small importers, who import purely for sale in their own shops (like Fishchick and Coburg), who would be most concerned. This is not the case. Shane has spent a significant amount of his time over the last TWO years researching and attempting to address the issue. And to formulate a business model which will be viable in a post-batch testing environment.

The estimated cost for a batch test is $2,000 per test. A batch is defined as a single species of fish, originating from a single location (ie farm), arriving to Australia in a single shipment. By that definition, an AI shipment could include 30 or 40 batches which require testing. Clearly their business would not be able to withstand an additional $80,000 cost every shipment. They certainly couldn't continue with the weekly shipments which they do now. That cost will of course be passed on to the consumer. Don't imagine that just because you only ever buy catfish and rainbows that you won't be affected by the price hikes. I would expect that prices of all fish would go up because if it was restricted only to the fish subjected to testing, who's going to buy a $70 guppy?

As I mentioned in another thread (or perhaps it was a PM that someone sent me), the process is at the point where Biosecurity Australia have finalised their recommendations and it is now up to AQIS to implement them. So far AQIS haven't figured out exactly how all this will work, who will bear the cost, the timelines, or any of the practicalities. There is a move to shift the responsibility from the importer to the supplier. That means the farms in Asia would have to ensure that their fish do not test positive for iridovirus. While this may still raise the price of those fish, it is not likely to be as high as if it was done the other way. The importer doesn't have to buy fish, transport them to Australia, and then have a portion of them destroyed for testing.

We're a long way off from being able to determine how this will affect AquaBid purchases. My guess is that the small farms that specialise in show quality fish won't be able to bear the cost of satisfying AQIS requirements. My perception is that they don't sell sufficient numbers of fish to Australians to provide enough incentive for them to jump through all the hoops. I might be wrong about that. And perhaps some of the larger farms might be willing to produce better quality fish.

I spoke to Shane briefly about how much criticism there was about the scientific methodology in the import risk analysis and related documents. His view was that there is sufficient scientific evidence to support the taking of precautionary measures against the threat of iridovirus. In order to reverse the Biosecurity recommendation someone would have to undertake the research to prove the contrary. I didn't get any indication that this was something AI were going to do. I believe their focus is simply on compliance with the requirements and adapting their business accordingly.

OK, you've all been good enough to read this far, a thread with no pictures (gasp), not even a little emoticon to provide relief, so I should probably answer the question everyone is asking: when is this likely to happen?

Don't know! *lol* (there's your emoticon)

Seriously... no one knows. AQIS don't even have a plan yet. AI are hoping that they will be given 12 months to implement the new process once AQIS finalise it. And they have their fingers crossed that they will actually have 18 months to 2 years. I don't expect that hobbyists will find out with quite as much notice. But it's probably safe to say that there will be an opportunity to put in a final order and this is unlikely to happen for at least 12 months. Obviously, if you're not active on the forum at the time of the announcement, you're not going to find out.

What can hobbyists do if this is inevitable?

We can't influence whether or not this is implemented. Well perhaps if someone had the time, inclination, skills and funding to prove scientifically that these measures are unnecessary, maybe. But this doesn't mean that the entire thing goes through unopposed and unchallenged. Apparently we made enough of a fuss last year for the brakes to be applied and the issue approached with a little more care. AQIS are more used to the public yelling at them to stop things coming in eg. bananas. Sounds like they weren't entirely prepared for people actually wanting something allowed in.

The pressure should definitely continue. A clear message needs to be sent that while hobbyists support the principle of protecting his country, sacrificing the aquarium industry in the process is not acceptable. We need to let AQIS know that we expect them to be creative as they attempt to implement the recommendation and find a balance between protecting our shores and allowing the continued existence of a thriving industry.

Personally, I'm going to try to achieve as many of my betta breeding goals as possible over the next two years. There's a strong chance it's going to get a lot more difficult and expensive after that.

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It's all been said before, but what kind of fool would spend $2,000 to test a $2 fish for a virus, when the virus may already be endemic in the population they are supposedly trying to protect?????

Sounds like a load of administrative rubbish to me. Sounds like someone got a lot of funding, found a project to take on as a pet, now everyone who was involved in that project is too embarrased to admit it was a crappy and very expensive idea, so the administrators kept running with it - despite the overwhelmingly obvious inadequacies of the project.

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Hi 'Razzi, would it be possible for me to quote your post and put it up on another forum? They are very worried about this to. I'm glad it looks like we have more time to get stock, I've been trying to get as much as possible before September.

Matt

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Thanks Razzi

very informative you are a real trooper and its made it quite clear what ill be doing getting all the breeding stock on my wish list in the next twelve months after a hassle free experiance in getting my two Hm and OHM Dragon pairs I definatly have the confidance to order more.

Cheers

Les

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Is there any universities in Australia that are studying the virus? Could be a cheap way to get some info and scientific proof that the virus is already here. If it is such a threat to our native marine life, surely someone has done some testing locally.

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Is there any universities in Australia that are studying the virus? Could be a cheap way to get some info and scientific proof that the virus is already here. If it is such a threat to our native marine life, surely someone has done some testing locally.

University of Sydney.

Evidence, including research by the University of Sydney, has indicated possible changes to the understanding of iridoviruses.

http://www.daff.gov.au/ba/ira/current-animal/ornamental_finfish/draft_import_risk_analysis_report_for_ornamental_finfish_with_respect_to_iridoviruses

is that the same thing?

Simon

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This is a quote from the document linked to in previous post

The draft IRA report recommends additional tighter quarantine measures. These are:

(OPTION 1)sourcing fish from populations demonstrated to be free of the iridoviruses of quarantine concern; or

(OPTION 2)batch-testing fish on arrival to show they are free of iridoviruses of quarantine concern.

seems to me there is a lot of focus(in forums) on option 2

BUT.....option 1 seems logical(purple)

I'd suggest most Asian suppliers are going to have to do something to resolve this problem.....not that Australia is a big market....but USA is....and it is my understanding they are on the same bandwagon!

Anyone know which markets are deemed to be free of iridoviruses???

Are there any???

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It almost seems like Biosecurity Australia or AQIS don't actually have to achieve the desired result. All they have to do is put in place a procedure so they can say, "hey look, we did what we could, we even destroyed an entire industry". Doesn't matter if it actually controls the virus or protects the native fish. They just have to do something. That's why there can be holes in the science. All they need is a suspicion. I believe the research that the IRA was based on came from some student paper that wasn't subjected to review by the scientific community.

I just want to clarify my comment that hobbyists "can't influence whether or not this is implemented". That's only partly true. Yes, something is going to be implemented, we're not going to be able to stop that runaway train. However, we CAN influence what exactly is implemented, how it's done, and how it affects the industry. Why the hell should the community have to prove that the virus is already endemic or that guppies and bettas don't carry it? If Biosecurity are making a recommendation that is going to have such a devastating effect on the aquarium industry then I think they're going to have to do a bit better than a stupid student paper and a nonsense IRA.

Here's an example of how dumb some of this stuff is. Someone did a study of some kind of bass in the US which is similar to Murray Cod. They found that where the bass were succumbing to iridovirus related diseases, feral guppies also existed in those areas. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Terrific (not). That's the kind of approach which led to superstitious beliefs in the Middle Ages. The guppies didn't test positive to the virus nor show any symptoms. They were assumed to be the carriers because they're not native. But so what? The virus could exist everywhere and fish succumb when their immunity is compromised by other stresses like climate change or chemical pollution. What kind of scientific study makes those kinds of assumptions? The kind that isn't subjected to peer review.

Here's another thing: the current quarantine procedures are not being followed by virtually any of the Asian suppliers. What's the point of imposing stringent procedures if you're not going to monitor it adequately? As Rod has pointed out, we're not a particularly big market for them. Why would they bother? Maybe if the US applied the same pressure and required the same kind of health controls, we'd have a chance.

What are some of the things we should be doing? In the first instance, we can all come up with our own ideas. Then go ahead and do it. You don't need anyone's permission. You could contact your local unis, like Les is doing. Or even contact Biosecurity Australia and AQIS directly.

We should be spreading the message far and wide. Try to write some of your own original stuff. Your personal opinion is just as valuable as fact and figures. But if you want to analyse the science go ahead and do that. But what we want is for there to be lots of varied content on this issue and in various places. Not everything leading back to a handful of threads started by the same individuals on different forums.

If you're social media savvy pass the info around on Facebook, twitter, blogs, YouTube etc. Repost, retweet, follow, like, favourite, share. Let's get it to the point where nobody can Google the words "guppy" or "betta" or "cichlid" without finding out about batch testing.

Make sure all the shops know about it. I can just see an out-of-touch shop owner finding out for the very first time when he rings up his wholesaler to complain that he's been sent the retail price list instead of the wholesale one. That IS the wholesale price. Everything has gone up 300%, didn't you know? I heard the other day that there are still importers who haven't heard. It's really mind-boggling.

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I am with you Razzi who is to say that our migratory water fowl that have frequent flyer points between hear and asia are not carrying it in some form in there gut depending in realy wet seasons we have had stilts in the gold feilds on the salt lakes and they dont normaly come down that far ther nomaly more costal and some only lower kimberly and which native fish will this virus affect murry cod dont have them hear in WA unless we import them and our AQIS check every thing from the eastern states we feel real quarantend and isolated over hear <_< :giggle:

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  • 2 months later...

Well, the thing is, if it is here, this entire thing is entirely pointless, a complete waste of time, money and resources. If it is not, then I can understand why this would be implemented. Obviously option 1 is a much more logical option as was mentioned before.

Either option however will cost us money, if suppliers have to test for it, they will pass those costs onto those they are supplying to, and the prices of ornamental fish will rise. If importers to this country (whether it be Fish-chick, or Bay-fish, or anyone else) have to fork out the money to pay for the batch testing, the prices will rise as well. It's a catch22, no matter which option, the importers, retailers and hobbyists will all be paying more for their fish, and there will be some fish we just won't be able to get anymore, because as was said before, who's going to pay $70.00 for an everyday, run of the mill, nothing special Guppy.

The only people who profit from this, are those being payed by the importers (or the international suppliers) to do the compulsory testing to prove these fish are free of iridovirus.

And, I'm sure it's not only me who thinks this, but if a similar disease where found in say; dogs, far more people would be up in arms about it. Taking 45 out of 100 dogs to do testing for some virus they may not even have, and then just disposing of them would be considered animal cruelty, but it's fine to do that with fish of course.

Human beings need a swift kick up the backside in general I think.

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It's a pretty frightening state of affairs when "this is the most logical solution"

Have we heard any more about when importing restrictions might come into place?

Should I speak with someone before I go on a buying rampage through Thailand, only to have my fish plopped into a blender and put on high?

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The word from Bayfish (via killiguy) is that batch testing is on HOLD indefinitely. I'd love to see an official statement from AQIS but I think the risk of sudden implementation has been reduced quite a lot.

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Please keep the discussion here to iridovirus & batch testing

previous posts can be found here http://ausaqua.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=11939&pid=130198&st=0&#entry130198

Edited by Neffy
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