Fourth-generation oyster farmer Rob Moxham inspects oysters killed the virus that causes Pacific oyster mortality syndrome, which has destroyed about 90 per cent of the oysters in a 50-hectare area in Australia, 24 January 2013. Photo: Sahlan Hayes / Sydney Morning Herald

By Leesha McKenny, Urban Affairs Reporter
25 January 2013

(Sydney Morning Herald) – When the news came through, the fourth-generation oyster farmer Rob Moxham said it made him feel sick to his stomach.

Tests this week confirmed that the Pacific oyster mortality syndrome had reached the Hawkesbury's tributary, Mullet Creek, the local industry's nursery for juvenile stock.

''We were hoping it wouldn't get here but we were half expecting it,'' he said.

With no resistance to the virus, oysters that had been healthy on Monday were felled - in their millions - virtually overnight.

With them went hopes that many of the Hawkesbury's 15 growers would have any produce by the end of this year.

Mr Moxham said mature stocks could run out sooner, especially if the infection spread before they could reach the market. ''In 24 hours it wiped out probably about 90 per cent of the oysters over a 50-hectare area,'' he said. ''It's just so devastating.'' […]

The president of the Broken Bay Oyster Association, John Stubbs, said the outbreak would cost farmers a ''substantial amount'' of money. ''There's several million oysters in Mullet Creek,'' he said. […]

Richard Whittington from the University of Sydney's faculty of veterinary science, has been working with the industry to reduce the risk from the virus.

He said it was unknown what triggered an outbreak but there was a ''very strong possibility'' that unusual seasonal conditions - such as last week's heatwave - had reduced the oysters' immunity. [more]

Virus wipes out millions of oysters overnight

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