Cowell oyster growers await POMS resistence results

A RESEARCH program hoping to safeguard the oyster industry from Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) will continue for another year, after receiving an additional $137,000.

The state’s commercial oyster industry had been on high alert since February after routine testing by SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI) detected the virus in Adelaide’s Port River. 

SA Oyster Growers Association executive officer Trudy McGowan said the funding and the continued research was exactly what the industry needed.

“It’s fantastic as our number one concern is POMS,” Ms McGowan said.

“The funding is critical for us and we’re so pleased, because it’s where the funding is needed.”

Ms McGowan said the state government’s funding efforts and the continued research would help reduce the impact of POMS in the state.

“If POMS effects one of our growers now they may lose around 90 to 95 per cent of their oysters but with this research into the resistant spat we will maybe only lose 50 to 60 per cent in future,” she said.

Turner Oysters and Seafood owner Simon Turner said fellow oyster growers in Cowell have been “on tenterhooks” since POMS was detected in the Port River and have remained so even if the virus was being well monitored and contained.

“As soon as the water turns 18 degrees, about Novemberish, that’s when the virus gets active,” he said.

“We won’t know too much until November-December, we’ve very much on tenterhooks anticipating what will happen in that time.”

Ms McGowan said with funding and continued research that mortality rate could drop even further.

The disease resistant oyster spat will be reared at SARDI’s breeding centre in Adelaide, before they are provided to farms and localised testing is conducted in the Port River.

Mr Turner said he was aware South Australia had the same oyster family as the one in Tasmania that had shown resistance to the virus, but the difference was the Tasmanian family has had exposure to the virus.

He said there would be a chance to put samples of the SA oysters into the testing site at the Port River once the virus was active to see how effective they were at resisting it.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said that while the virus had not been detected in the oyster growing regions of the state, such as the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas, the industry was still on high alert.

“POMS is a terrible disease, very aggressive,” he said.

“It spreads fast and can kill entire Pacific oyster farms within days of them being infected.

“This threat is understandably a big concern for everyone linked to the state’s $33 million oyster industry.”

Mr Whetsone said the state’s oyster industry provided jobs and benefits to regional areas, and highlighted the need for SARDI’s research.

He said developing POMS-resistant oysters and stocking them on South Australian farms helped protect the industry against any potential outbreak and helped local oyster growers avoid potential losses.

SARDI’s ‘Future Oysters’ Cooperative Research Centre Project’ is due to be completed in 2019.

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