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, the coastal communities these businesses support, and to 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 oyster growers and benefit from their great insight about the best methods for oyster farming. This knowledge includes many traditional 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 used by a unique marine herpesvirus 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 forget other important problems. In New South Wales this means QX disease and winter mortality syndrome. Over time we hope to discover how they tick!
We publish new information about OsHV-1 in Australia in international scientific journals – please see the page “Scientific Publications”.
Despite research breakthroughs in husbandry of oysters, and progress in improved genetics (a commercial 70% resistant oyster will be available in 2018), it is currently impossible to restock a farm after an outbreak of POMS. 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 community produced 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.
In January 2016 an outbreak of POMS began in Tasmania. The implications of this are very serious, due to loss of farmed oysters, and also because Tasmania is the source of Pacific oyster spat (baby oysters) for the rest of Australia. We have produced Fact Sheets that may be useful in the face of a POMS disease outbreak, to assist with farm disinfection, prevention of mortalities in hatcheries, and to help reduce losses and salvage value when an outbreak occurs on farm – please see the page “NEW: POMS Herpesvirus Fact Sheets”.
Professor Richard Whittington
University of Sydney,
Camden, NSW Australia
Last updated: February 2016