POMS-resistant oysters given new lease of life

The fight against the devastating Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) virus has been given a shot in the arm with $750,000 research funding secured for three more years to develop oysters resistant to the disease.

The project to develop POMS-resistant Pacific Oysters is jointly funded between the State Government, Flinders Ports, Australian Seafood Industries, the South Australian Oyster Growers’ Association and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone welcomed funding for the ‘South Australian Pacific Oyster Selective Breeding Program.

“The project goal is to ultimately provide the oyster industry with POMS-resistant broodstock for commercial spat production that can support our local oyster farmers,” said Minister Whetstone.

“South Australia’s $28 million oyster industry was threatened when POMS devastated Tasmania’s industry in 2016.

“Responding to the closure of spat supplies following the outbreak of POMS in Tasmania, the State Government provided financial support to increase spat production from local hatcheries.

“To reduce the risk of spreading to our oyster growing regions, there was a ban on South Australian growers importing Pacific Oyster spat from Tasmania, where more than 80 per cent of spat was previously sourced.

“Further risks were faced with the detection of POMS in feral oysters in the Port River last year, and thanks to swift action by the State Government and industry the virus has not been detected in commercial growing areas.”

Flinders Ports Holdings Chief Executive Officer Stewart Lammin said he was pleased to provide continue support to the research project.

“As the operator of Port Adelaide and South Australia’s six major regional ports, Flinders Ports considers itself to be an environmental custodian of the State’s ocean waterways – a responsibility we take very seriously,” said Mr Lammin.

“We recognise the risk POMS represents to the State’s oyster industry and actively address potential threats through education and careful management of our ports.

“We are also pleased to be providing significant funding to support the joint efforts of the Fisheries Research Development Corporation and Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) in their quest to develop POMS resistant oysters.”

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation’s Portfolio Manager Wayne Hutchinson said the funding would allow research to continue.

“Through this second phase of the project, the South Australian Research and Development Institute will breed three more generations of improved Pacific Oysters to achieve the target 90 per cent POMS resistance at one year old that will offer a high level of protection for South Australia’s oyster industry,” said Mr Hutchinson.

“This will support the growers and coastal communities’ that benefit from this sustainable industry.”

SA Oyster Growers’ Association Chief Executive Officer Trudy McGowan said developing POMS-resistant oysters would be a game changer for the industry.

“This research is vital in ensuring the long-term viability of the South Australian oyster farming industry,” said Ms McGowan.

“We have seen the devastating effects POMS can have and any research and development that can future-proof the industry is very much welcomed.”

The funding is made up of $250,000 from Flinders Ports, $135,000 from Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, $75,000 from Australian Seafood Industries, $30,000 from SA Oyster Growers’ Association with the rest coming from the State Government.

mediarelease feature