Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS)

POMS Background

Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) was first seen in Australia in NSW in 2010. Since then movement restrictions have been in place on oysters and oyster products to reduce the risk of spread to other areas.

The POMS virus was first detected in Tasmania when it caused a high level of mortalities at an oyster lease in late January 2016, however tests on stored frozen oysters indicated that the virus has been present in the State since at least mid-December 2015.

In the past, statewide surveys have been conducted to see if the POMS virus was present in Tasmania. The last of these surveys was completed in March 2015, and no POMS virus was detected, indicating that the virus arrived in Tasmania some time between March and December last year.

Since the detection in late January 2016, Biosecurity Tasmania and the Tasmanian oyster industry have been working together to manage the effects of this disease on the Tasmanian oyster industry.  Whilst the disease is a concern for oyster producers, healthy oysters can still be harvested and product being sold through retail outlets remains safe to eat.

The initial response to POMS in Tasmania included restrictions on the movement of oysters onto oyster farms while a structured testing program was undertaken to determine where the virus was present in the State. This testing program made it possible to assess oyster movements that could occur between farms without spreading the virus.

Based on the information from the POMS testing program three (3) areas of differing disease risk have been determined as a basis for issuing movement permits. These areas are:

  • POMS free area across the north of Tasmania; but excluding the St Helens area:
  • Intermediate risk areas where there is little or no evidence of disease, but a risk of introduction of the disease; and
  • An infected area where POMS is known to occur.


The current list of bays within the three (3) areas of differing disease risk can be found under Area Classification below.

Movements are allowed under permit; both within a risk area and into another area where there is a higher risk of POMS being present. Movements will not be allowed from an area of high risk to an area with a lower level of risk of POMS being present.

A permit is required to be able to move oysters from one oyster growing area to be placed on a farm in another area. Details of how to apply for a permit here on the DPIPWE web site.

Experience in other countries and other states indicates that the major cause of rapid spread of the POMS virus is by movement of oysters between oyster farms. The movement controls still in place are designed to reduce the risk of this type of spread of the virus.

As the virus is now established in Tasmania we do have to expect some natural spread to other areas, however, controlling movement of oysters should help slow the overall spread of the virus and give some much needed time for the industry to be able to establish long term strategies to manage this disease.

Options for long term management include work already being undertaken by the industry to develop strains of oysters resistant to the disease. DPIPWE continues to work with the industry to assist the industry recover from this disease event and develop options for future management of oysters in an environment where POMS occurs.

It is important to note that oysters harvested for human consumption that are not going to be placed on another oyster farm can be moved without a permit. POMS does not affect human health and oysters on the market are safe to eat.


Area Classification

Area classifications are designated according to the level of risk that the POMS virus is present in a bay and may change from time to time. The different areas determine the basis for issuing movement permits. These areas are:

  • POMS free area across the north of Tasmania, but excluding the St Helens area;
  • Intermediate risk areas where there is little or no evidence of disease, but a risk of introduction of the disease; and
  • An infected area where POMS is known to occur.

In August 2016, testing of brood stock detected the presence of POMS in an area previously classified as POMS free. The suspicious result indicated the presence of POMS but there were no mortalities observed in the population. As a precautionary measure the three (3) areas of differing disease risk have been amended to reflect the finding as being positive. The St Helens area is now classified as an intermediate risk area. Similarly current evidence supports Dunalley Bay being classified as an intermediate risk area.

The updated list of three (3) areas of differing disease risk is:

POMS Free areas

This is all areas of Tasmania north of a line through Launceston, but excludes the St Helens area

  • Sea Elephant Bay (King Island)
  • Montague
  • Duck Bay
  • Big Bay
  • Port Sorell

Intermediate areas

This is the Huon-Channel area, Norfolk Bay, Great Oyster Bay and the St Helens area

  • Great Oyster Bay
  • Great Swanport
  • King George Sound
  • Eaglehawk Bay
  • Garfish Bay
  • Little Norfolk Bay
  • Port Arthur
  • Fleurtys Point
  • Great Bay
  • Long Bay Reef
  • Little Taylors Bay
  • Cloudy Bay Lagoon
  • Deep Bay
  • Gardners Bay
  • Port Esperance
  • Hastings Bay
  • Recherche Bay
  • Moulting Bay (George’s Bay)
  • Dunalley Bay

Infected areas

  • Little Swanport
  • Blackman Bay
  • Pitt Water
  • Island Inlet
  • Pipe Clay Lagoon

Movements are allowed under permit; both within a risk area and into another area where there is a higher risk of POMS presence. Movements will not be allowed from an area of high risk to an area with a lower level of risk of POMS being present.

Permit applications can be downloaded from this link: Movement Permit Application. Hard copies of the form can be arranged by calling 03 6165 4825.


Industry Assistance

Additional government support for oysters growers affected by POMS has been made available. For more information see Government Assistance for Oyster Growers.


POMS Contacts in DPIPWE

Two new positions have been created with funding for 12 months from the Australian Government to assist the Oyster Industry with managing POMS.  John Preston has been appointed as Coordinator Oyster Biosecurity and Ellis Cox has started work as the POMS Liaison Officer.  John is based with Animal Biosecurity and Welfare Branch at New Town and Ellis is located in the Marine Farming Branch in Hobart.

Please contact John on 03 6165 4825 or 0428 504 150 for Permit enquiries or any other issues to do with POMS.


​​​Movement Permit Application Form​

Permit application can be downloaded from this link: Movement Permit Application. Hard copies of the form can be arranged by calling 6165 4825.

 

A permit will cover the authorised movement of oysters or oyster equipment. Permit applications should be forwarded to Biosecurity Tasmania as early as possible in the movement planning stage. Note that there is a five (5) working day maximum turnaround on permits. Usually permits are issued well within this period, however this is dependent on demand.

 
 

​​​Current Situation

3 November 2016

Biosecurity Tasmania has developed a surveillance strategy for the summer of 2016 – 2017 looking for the POMS virus rather than active disease.  This strategy will rely on the cooperation of oyster growers providing samples for testing once water temperatures have reached a sustained 18°C. The areas to be tested are all farm areas in Circular Head, Port Sorell, Moulting Bay (Georges Bay), Great Bay and Norfolk Bay.

During the summer UTAS will also be doing research into the “window of infection” in areas of known disease. Another research project undertaken by Biosecurity Tasmania will involve plankton tows looking for evidence of the virus.

Movement Permits are still required for any movements of live oysters or oyster equipment throughout Tasmania.


 

POMS - Control Area Declaration (9 February 2016)

A Control Area has been declared for the whole of Tasmania under the Animal Health Act 1995 restricting the movement of oysters and animal materials and conveyances used in the production of oysters.

More information on the Control Area​ Declaration and copies of the formal Declarations​.


Reporting of Mortalities in Aquatic Animals

Any unexplained and significant mortality of oysters (greater than 5 percent) should be reported to:

Biosecurity Tasmania
Phone Office Hours: 03 6165 3263

Phone after office hours: 1800 675 888

Email: POMSTas@dpipwe.tas.gov.au​​