Welcome to Oyster Health Sydney!
This comes to you from the Aquatic Animal Health team in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. We hope you enjoy this site, the opportunity it provides to view our research, and the means it gives you to offer advice, comments and suggestions to assist our research program.
We believe that healthy oysters are central to a sustainable oyster industry and to maintenance of healthy estuaries. But how do you assess health, and what factors determine whether a healthy batch of oysters will remain healthy in the presence of disease threats? How does the environment affect the immune system of the oyster? How can oysters be managed to minimise the risk of losses due to infectious diseases? These are some of the questions we will try to answer in our multidisciplinary research program.
We work closely with regional environmental agencies and with oyster growers and this gives us great insight because of accumulated knowledge about the best methods for oyster farming. Implicitly this includes many valuable practices to avoid common diseases. Unfortunately the emergence of new diseases in the last few decades has changed the game and stimulated a search for new solutions. This is where science and research must step up to meet the challenge.
Australia currently faces a scourge due to Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS), which is associated with a viral infection. This blog will be focussed for some time on the POMS need – please see the page “Our POMS research“. The principles we use in this research are common to most disease threats, and we will not loose sight of other important problems. In New South Wales this means QX disease and winter mortality syndrome. Over time we hope to discover how they tick!
The research team published new observations about the behaviour of OsHV-1 in Australia in the July 2013 issues of two international scientific journals, Diseases of Aquatic Organisms and Aquaculture - please see the page “Scientific Publications”. The team proposed an hypothesis that the virus is transmitted in nature attached to tiny particles, probably in the plankton. This theory explains much of what has been observed during natural outbreaks. It is vital that the natural transmission mechanisms of OsHV-1 are better understood because this knowledge can be applied to devise ways to reduce exposure of farmed oysters to the virus, thereby helping to mitigate economic loss. We show how this can be done in the paper in Aquaculture. In January 2014, also in Aquaculture, we published scientific details of the massive outbreak of OsHV-1 that devastated the Pacific oyster farms in the Hawkesbury River in January 2013. This very intensive investigation revealed many new features about transmission of the disease. It is difficult to study this virus in nature, but a new method for detecting it more efficiently in seawater has been developed and is described in full in the Journal of Virological Methods in an article that appeared in October 2014.
The oyster industries require ongoing research and development for new innovations and future prosperity, and at present this is crucial for POMS (OsHV-1). However, the outcomes from research can be hard to predict, and the time required to make breakthrough developments is never certain. This can cause confusion for industry in a time of crisis. Therefore the research team has helped the research community to produce a consensus statement on research progress – please see the page “POMS Information”. It describes the likely commercial outcomes and the time required for success in the genetic and husbandry research programs that are underway in Australia.
Professor Richard Whittington
University of Sydney,
Camden, NSW Australia