Q&A Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome
Last update: 8 February 2013
Is it safe to eat farmed shellfish?
YES. The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health advise that the oyster virus that affected Pacific oysters in the Hawkesbury River and Georges River cannot be transmitted to humans.
Commercial shellfish in NSW are grown under a strict food safety program, the NSW Shellfish Program, which is administered by the NSW Food Authority.
The NSW Food Authority assures consumers that oysters destined for sale for human consumption from NSW are safe to eat with the stringent safeguards in place under the NSW Shellfish Program.
Is this a food safety related incident?
NO. The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have confirmed there are no food safety or human health issues related to this POMS event.
Where have Pacific oysters died?
Reports indicate that a significant numbers of wild and cultivated Pacific Oysters have died in the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River at Mullet Creek. Previously large numbers of Pacific Oysters in the Georges River and Port Jackson have succumbed to this disease.
When did the Pacific oysters die?
Oyster farmers in the Hawkesbury River reported significant mortality of Pacific Oysters at Mullet Creek in late January 2013. Previously, in late November 2010 oyster farmers in the Georges River, Botany Bay, reported to DPI that they had experienced a large mortality event in their Pacific Oyster crop and also noted that wild Pacific Oysters had died too. There were reports of wild Pacific Oysters dying in the upper reaches of Port Jackson in late February 2011.
Why have the Pacific oysters died?
The triggers for Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome are unknown but may be due to a range of environmental factors.
Where did the virus come from?
Oyster viruses have previously been indentified in Australian waters in bivalve molluscs but until now have not been associated with significant mortalities of oysters.
Similar viruses have been regularly detected in France since 1991 and in addition to European waters have been found in America, Asia and most recently New Zealand.
Have other oysters and molluscs died?
NO. Sydney Rock Oysters, Native Flat Oysters and other molluscs appear unaffected by the event.
Are other estuaries in NSW affected?
DPI has received no other reports of significant oyster mortalities in any other NSW estuary.
What is DPI doing to limit the spread of the disease?
There is a total ban on the movement of oysters from the Hawkesbury River, Georges River, Botany Bay and Port Jackson to any other estuary in NSW and movement controls are in place regarding the movement of oyster farming infrastructure and equipment from these estuaries to any other oyster growing estuary in NSW.
Educational material is being be developed to help boat owners better understand the risks of boating movement, and translocation of fouling organisms and bilge water from Hawkesbury River, Botany Bay and Port Jackson to other waterways.
DPI is undertaking research into the infectivity mechanisms of this disease and is working closely with researchers to better understand the mechanisms for the spread and management of this disease.
Can I catch the virus if I eat oysters?
NO. NSW Health has confirmed that the virus only affects molluscs and cannot be transmitted to humans.
Is it safe to eat oysters?
YES. Commercial shellfish are grown under a strict food safety program administered by the NSW Food Authority.