SA scientists continue to help protect oyster industry

South Australian scientists will continue to lead the nation’s effort to safeguard valuable oyster industries from the threat of disease, after extra funding has been made available.

A further $137,000 will allow a research program that breeds disease-resistant Pacific Oyster spat to continue for another year.

‘Future Oysters’ Cooperative Research Centre Project’ will provide the extra funding to PIRSA’s research division – the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) – to continue its program.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said SA’s commercial oyster industry had been on high alert since February when routine testing by SARDI detected the virus that causes Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) in the Port River.

“POMS is a terrible disease, very aggressive – it spreads fast and can kill entire Pacific Oyster farms within days of them being infected,” said Minister Whetstone.

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

“Recovery is still a work in progress in Tasmania where a POMS outbreak was detected in commercially grown oysters in Tasmania in 2016.

“Importantly, the virus has not been detected in the oyster growing regions of the state, highlighting the need for the work being undertaken by SARDI.

“All of our oyster farms are located in regional South Australia, providing jobs and flow-on benefits to these communities on the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas and Kangaroo Island.

“Having POMS-resistant oysters stocked on South Australian farms helps protect us against any potential outbreak and help local oyster growers avoid the losses sustained by their interstate counterparts.

“South Australia is fortunate enough to have some of the world’s leading experts on oyster breeding at SARDI and I’m delighted to support this important work, in collaboration with Australian Seafood Industries (ASI) and SA oyster growers.”

The project is being led by SARDI’s Aquaculture Science Leader, Professor Xiaoxu Li.

Professor Li has extensive knowledge in bivalve aquaculture and genetics, especially oysters, scallops and abalone with more than 30 years’ experience.

A range of testing activities will be undertaken, including providing POMS-resistant spat to farms and localised testing in the Port River.

POMS-resistant oyster spat will be reared at SARDI’s state-of-the-art aquaculture breeding centre at West Beach which recently underwent a $360,000 upgrade to provide scientists with a purpose-built facility.

The project is due to be completed in 2019.

The Future Oysters CRC-P project is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Industry Innovation and Science (DIIS) CRC Projects program and contributions by project participants, through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). 

The CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community.

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