Seafood company breeds a solution to devastating Pacific Oyster disease

By / 10th of June, 2014

AUSTRALIAN Seafood Industries (ASI), owned by South Australian and Tasmania peak oyster organisations, is developing a solution to the devastating Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome disease (POMS).

Their oyster breeding program is well on the way to producing their stated goal of a Pacific Oyster with a minimum of a 70% survival rate for adult oysters exposed to POMS.

POMS has wreaked havoc on the Pacific Oyster industry in France, Japan, New Zealand and recently the east coast of Australia.

While Tasmania and South Australia are currently free of the disease, it remains a clear threat to the $70 million industry.

The selective breeding work is proposed to be underwritten by a $2.80 per thousand interim levy on spat sales to oyster farmers with the goal to be achieved in a 3-5 year timeframe.

Dr. Morten Rye, Akvaforsk Fish Genetics Centre in Norway, in a report commissioned by the Seafood CRC, says in part "Australian Seafood Industries now operates a technically well-designed and effective family based selective breeding program for Pacific Oyster, expected to produce significant genetic improvements for traits of key importance to the Pacific Oyster sector".

"The program structure is flexible and can facilitate effective selection for improved resistance to disease", he said.

Alan Daley, Executive Chair of Australian Seafood Industries said "The development of a POMS resistant oyster is to safe guard the industry in South Australia and Tasmania and to re-establish Pacific Oyster farming in areas devastated by POMS, a very necessary insurance policy for this valuable sector of the Australian seafood industry".

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  • South Australia's aquaculture sector is now worth more than $243 million to the state's economy.
  • The value of aquaculture production grew by six per cent on the previous year, up more than $14 million.
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna is leading the growth with tonnage harvested rising by six per cent.
  • Oysters reported a nine per cent growth in yield.
  • Land based aquaculture as a whole increased production by up to 33 per cent.
  • The aquaculture sector accounts for more than half of the state's seafood production.
  • The sector provides 1,200 full-time jobs and almost 1,400 flow-on jobs, more than half of those in regional area.
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna makes up 63 per cent of the total value of aquaculture production, followed by oysters at 15 per cent, then algae, finfish, mussels, abalone and crustaceans.
  • In 2012-2013, aquaculture related tourism attracted around 9,000 visitors, mostly for the opportunity to swim with Southern Bluefin Tuna in their pens.