Welcome to Oyster Health Sydney!
This comes to you from the Aquatic Animal Health team in the School of Veterinary Science at The University of Sydney. We are affiliated with The University of Sydney Marine Studies Institute, the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity and the Sydney Institute of Agriculture. 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 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. However, the principles we use in this research are common to most disease threats.
The research we undertake is communicated in a variety of ways, including via this website. We aim to ensure rigorous standards in research and to ensure that our findings are available for assessment by industry and by the international scientific community. For this reason we try to publish our research in scientific journals in a timely manner. For a current list, please see the page “Scientific Publications”. These findings are translated and presented to farmers, farming associations and media. We have produced Fact Sheets that may be useful in the face of a POMS disease outbreak, to assist with 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 Fact Sheets.
Despite research breakthroughs in husbandry of oysters, and progress in improved genetics (a commercial 80% resistant-oyster-at-one-year-of-age became available in 2018), it is currently impossible to restock a farm with spat in a POMS endemic area and be confident in their survival. However, results from commercial scale trials in NSW in which disease events are to be monitored closely may be available in 2019-20. Environmental conditions, specifically low water temperatures, favour survival in some estuaries particularly those in the south and in Tasmania in most years, but climate change will remove this advantage over time. The oyster industries require ongoing research and development for new innovations and future prosperity, and this remains a need for POMS (OsHV-1). However, the outcomes from research can be hard to predict, and the time frame required to make breakthrough developments is uncertain. This can cause confusion for industry in a time of crisis.
Emeritus Professor Richard Whittington
University of Sydney,
Camden, NSW Australia
Last updated: October 2019