Last update: 18 April 2013
An outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) in the Hawkesbury River has devastated the local oyster industry. There are 15 oyster businesses operating in the area with $2.4 million worth of oysters sold annually.
The culture of Pacific Oysters is undertaken in a number of NSW estuaries.
POMS was first detected in Mullet Creek after mortalities were reported to DPI in farmed Pacific Oysters on 21 January 2013.
DPI researchers at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute confirmed the presence of the POMS virus in samples of Pacific Oysters on 22 January 2013.
A Quarantine Order was placed on the Hawkesbury River to halt the movement of oysters and oyster farming equipment to other estuaries. Oyster farmers also implemented voluntary movement controls within the Hawkesbury River as soon as mortalities were detected.
By Wednesday 23 January 2013 all Mullet Creek oyster leases had suffered significant mortalities of Pacific Oysters, wild Pacific Oysters were also impacted.
Mortalities from POMS have since been detected nearby in oyster leases at Mooney Mooney Creek, Spectacle Island and Coba Bay. Further surveillance work by Sydney University has confirmed that POMS is present at all oyster growing areas in the Hawkesbury River including Patonga Creek.
Map - Hawkesbury River 600Kb
A closure of the nearby Brisbane Water was implemented by DPI. Sampling of wild Pacific Oysters in Brisbane Water have confirmed the presence of the virus.
Agencies and local Councils met with Hawkesbury River oyster growers to discuss short term assistance measures to support social and business needs as well as consider options for disposal of dead shell. The Minister Katrina Hodgkinson MP and local Minister Chris Holstein MP also visited and spoke to local growers.
DPI is working with Hawkesbury River oyster farmers and the NSW Farmers Association Oyster Section to manage this current disease outbreak and the broader industry management issues.
DPI held a meeting for oyster farmers at Karuah 6 February 2013 to: provide an update on the Hawkesbury River POMS event; discuss the Brisbane Water closure; raise the need for industry preparedness and discussed biosecurity, research and management issues. Oyster farmers from Manning River, Wallis Lake, Port Stephens, Brisbane Water, Hawkesbury River and Georges River attended the event. NSW Farmers Association Oyster Section also attended.
DPI will meet with Brisbane Water oyster growers Thursday 14 February to discuss POMS management issues and options to support oyster businesses captured by the Quarantine Order placed on the estuary. Issues included decontamination procedures for equipment, movement of oyster stock to market and status of the Brisbane Water Shellfish Program.
Hawkesbury River oyster farmers noted increased stock mortalities in Porto Bay on 14 February.
The National Pacific Oyster Health Management Working Group met by phone 15 February to discuss national response, management and research issues in relation to POMS. A subsequent meeting was held 27 March to receive an update and consider future research and industry preparedness for POMS.
Hawkesbury River oyster farmers provided an update to the NSW Shellfish Committee 20 February on the POMS event and options to access stock to support businesses in the short term. Discussion also focussed on industry response and preparedness to further POMS outbreaks, and quarantine and control options for the NSW oyster industry.
Wild Pacific Oysters in the Hunter River Newcastle were tested for POMS. Results provided 5 March showed no presence of the virus.
Hawkesbury River oysters have been further impacted by rainfall in the catchment reducing salinity levels for extended periods causing additional mortalities. Growers are continuing work with Sydney University and NSW DPI to better understand and work around the infection period for POMS and develop disease resistant oyster breeding lines.
POMS has previously caused significant mortalities of Pacific Oysters in Georges River and Port Jackson in 2010 and 2011.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health have confirmed Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome only affects Pacific Oysters and poses no risk to human health. POMS does not affect Sydney Rock or Native Flat Oysters.