Hornsby Mayor Steve Russell has pledged continuing support to the local oyster industry in the wake of a serious disease outbreak – and called on all residents to do the same.
University of Sydney experts have identified Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome as the cause of recent deaths in the population of Pacific oysters grown in the Hawkesbury River.
The disease poses no threat to humans, but will create significant hardship in the local oyster farming community and the businesses it supports.
“This is unfortunate news and the oyster growers should know that Council is very much in the bunker with them,” Mayor Russell said.
“We have been in communication with local growers and have been assisting them by providing monitoring and sharing environmental data.
The Mayor’s most important point, however, is a call to arms for residents throughout the Shire to continue to support the oyster industry.
“The best way we can all help these local businesspeople is to continue buying oysters, which are always great at this time of year,” Mayor Russell said
It’s a point emphasised by NSW Department of Primary Industries Aquaculture Manager Ian Lyall, who said consumers can still be confident in the quality of oysters in the market place.
"Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome only affects Pacific oysters. The Food Authority and NSW Health have confirmed the disease poses no risk to human health," Mr Lyall said.
"All farmed oysters destined for sale are harvested under the stringent safeguards of the NSW Shellfish Program, administered by the NSW Food Authority.
"DPI is working closely with local oyster growers to manage a closure that restricts the movements of any oysters and equipment to other estuaries.
"Hawkesbury River oyster farmers are working closely with international experts and Hornsby Council to mitigate the impact of this disease on their oyster crops.
"This disease has been associated with Pacific oyster mortalities previously in Europe, America, and most recently in New Zealand.
Industry spokesperson John Stubbs said growers promptly sent oysters for testing when they were first detected dying and immediately imposed restrictions on oyster movements within the Hawkesbury River.
This is the third time the disease has been detected in NSW.
In late 2010 there was an outbreak in the Georges River and shortly afterwards in Sydney Harbour.
For more information visit www.fisheries.nsw.gov.au.