Monday, 16 September 2019 Sydney

Oyster Virus Detected In Port River::

Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) advises that the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) virus has been detected in feral Pacific Oysters in the Port River. At this stage POMS has not been detected in South Australian oyster farming areas.

Samples taken during routine surveillance of the Port River area detected the POMS virus. Additional testing of these samples, carried out by the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (Geelong), confirmed the results on 28 February 2018.

To reduce the risk of POMS spreading, PIRSA has implemented a ban on the removal of all bivalve organisms (oysters, mussels, cockles) from the Port River until further notice. Bivalves should not be taken from the Port River area for any purpose including bait or berley.

Fishers and boat operators can help stop the spread of POMS by ensuring they follow these steps before their vessels leave the Port River for other areas of the State:

  • Ensure vessel hulls are clean and remove plants and animals from fishing and boating equipment and clothing so you don’t transfer pests and diseases to other waterways.
  • Where possible, wash boats and equipment with light household detergent, rinse with tap water without letting the water drain into waterways, and importantly dry completely before moving to another waterway.
  • Bivalves cannot be taken from the Port River for any purpose including bait or berley.
  • Never use seafood sold for human consumption as bait or berley.

General guidelines for good vessel cleaning practices can be found on the following PIRSA webpage:

PIRSA will continue to work with the oyster industry, recreational fishers, and owners of vessels to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

Background on POMS

POMS is a disease that causes rapid death and high mortality rates in Pacific Oysters. The disease spreads quickly if introduced and is a serious threat to the oyster farming industry.

The virus poses no threat to food safety or human health; recreational Port River users are not at any risk.

The first Australian case of POMS was recorded in 2010 in New South Wales, with the most recent outbreak in commercially-grown oysters detected in Tasmania in February 2016.

The outbreak of POMS in Tasmania resulted in an immediate ban on the importation of all live oysters and oyster farming equipment from Tasmania into South Australia, to mitigate the risk of POMS entering South Australia’s commercial oyster growing regions. This ban remains in place and is critical to protect SA’s $32 million oyster growing industry.

Surveillance across the State’s commercial oyster growing regions in 2017 and 2018 to date has not detected the virus, with over 2,500 oysters tested. Surveillance will continue in order to demonstrate ongoing freedom from POMS in farming regions.

Quotes attributable to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture Executive Director, Sean Sloan

No commercial oyster growing regions are currently affected by the virus. There are no disruptions to the supply of South Australian oysters for sale, and healthy table oysters continue to be processed for human consumption.

PIRSA will continue to monitor and test oysters in the Port River, and any other possible areas of risk. All strategies to mitigate the risk of spread of the virus are being investigated.

Fishers and boat users are urged to follow the guidelines to protect South Australia’s waters and stop the spread of POMS.

More information is available on the PIRSA website

Quotes attributable to SA Oyster Growers’ Association Executive Officer, Trudy McGowan

The state’s oyster growers remain confident that our industry is being protected by the strong biosecurity systems South Australia has in place.

The recent establishment of new hatcheries on the Eyre Peninsula is giving our industry a boost, but with this detection of POMS in feral – not farmed – oysters, it is clear that we must remain vigilant.

We are working with PIRSA to ensure the right precautions are in place to stop the virus spreading from the Port River.