Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome

​​​​​Situation

Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) was confirmed in some Pacific oyster leases on Tasmania’s south east coast in February 2016.

The areas infected are Upper and Lower Pitt Water, Pipe Clay Lagoon, Blackman Bay, Dunalley Bay, Island Inlet and Little Swanport. Wild Pacific oysters from the Derwent River estuary are also affected.  image of oyster lease

Eradicating the disease is not considered a practical option but efforts are continuing in response to this incursion.

Priority is being given to containing the disease, while mapping areas that are known to be infected, as well as those areas that are free of the disease. It is hoped that some growing areas will remain free of the disease.

Biosecurity Tasmania is developing an industry management plan using a model provided by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, which is based on their previous experience with this disease.  The plan will be developed in consultation with the oyster industry.

The Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases has met a number of times to discuss the response to this incursion.  The committee agreed on appropriate movement restrictions for spat and oysters, and at its last meeting, discussed the possibility of some Commonwealth funding to assist response and recovery activities.

In moving to a disease management program, the committee agreed that a joint government and industry group should consider the technical aspects of responding to this disease. 

This group is a partnership between industry and government, and consists of researchers and people with expertise in aquatic animal diseases. 

It is important that consumers are aware that this virus poses no threat to food safety or human health.

Information for oyster growers

Assistance for industry and growers

Assistance has been announced to help Tasmanian growers affected by the POMS outbreak, and to help the oyster industry manage this disease into the future. 

The Australian Government has allocated $1.47 million to deliver critical measures to manage, contain and understand the outbreak of POMS in Tasmania. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation is also helping the industry by investing $155,000 in research and measures to recover from the outbreak , including acceleration of the existing breeding program to produce oysters more resistant to POMS.

The Tasmanian Government has also announced POMS recovery measures to help rebuild the Tasmanian oyster industry.

You can access the information about these assistance packages, as well as rural counselling services through the links below:

Biosecurity

Good farm biosecurity measures are vital in preventing pest and disease outbreaks in your stock.  

Oysters Tasmania has a best practice guide on biosecurity and disease preparedness, with a focus on this virus. Growers are encouraged to download a copy from oysterstasmania.org

All oyster growers need to check their oysters regularly for any unusual signs, and report any increase in mortalities to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888. This number will put you in touch with your local department of primary industries or agriculture.

About the disease

Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome is a disease that causes major production and economic losses. It is caused by a virus that only affects Pacific Oysters, not other oyster species.

This virus is often not detected until oysters start dying in large numbers. The trigger for mass deaths is still not understood but may be linked to climatic or environmental factors.

Oyster mortalities occur quickly once infected with the virus, and losses can be up to 100 percent of stock.

The disease has previously occurred in Australia. Since 2010 it has been found in three NSW estuaries – the Georges River, Parramatta River and the Hawkesbury River (including Brisbane Water).

More information

Information about the disease response that is relevant to your state or territory can be found on the following websites:

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