In recent years, the oyster industry in particular has been leading an uphill battle against the devastating pacific oyster mortality syndrome, with an outbreak of the virus discovered in Tas in February 2016.
The discovery led to a ban on spat imports from the state into SA, with local growers still feeling the effects.
South Australian Oyster Growers Association executive officer Trudy McGowan said the industry was expecting to see 30 per cent of normal annual sales.
“Unfortunately, the farmers have been hit hard and we’ve had a huge amount of job losses – the industry is going to be very difficult for the next two years at least,” Ms McGowan said.
“Producers have been forced off their farms in order to find a supplementary income while they patiently wait for new spat to come through.
“When they can see they’re in a bad situation, they look to see how they can manage that to the best of their abilities.”
With the assistance of the SA government, Ms McGowan said the industry had been able to invest in two new hatcheries.
“These will expand the capacity of the hatcheries we already have in production and, if we are able to maintain a POMS-free status, we will be able to sell spat interstate and internationally,” she said.
Eyre oysters are produced in six main growing areas, including Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay, Smoky Bay, Denial Bay and St Peter’s Island.
Grown on ocean outcrops, the EP oyster population is raised in pristine waters, isolated from estuary and farming run-off.
Ms McGowan said farmers experiencing massive production and financial loss due to POMS were eligible to receive assistance through Centrelink and rural support services.
“The SA government has also removed lease and licence fees for the next two years, which is the equivalent of $1.5 million in revenue and that’s been of great assistance,” she said.
“Coming into the winter production season, farmers will be focusing on growing out the small number of spat they have, managing their growth to prolong the flow of product onto the market.
“POMS goes dormant and is not found in oysters during winter, realistically disappearing once the temperature reaches below 18 degrees, reducing the threat to young oysters.
“Producers will be looking to have their oysters on the market as soon as possible to ensure an income, however, peak market season is over summer so farmers are trying to manage growth to keep some stock for that peak season.”
Posing no threat to humans, POMS is a rapidly-spreading virus that can cause upwards of 95pc mortality in the first outbreak, leaving producers empty-handed and out of pocket.
Ms McGowan said although cases of POMS had been reported in feral oyster populations along the Port River in February, the EP remained free of the devastating virus.
The federal government, in conjunction with both the Tas and SA oyster industry has invested $1m in ongoing research to develop a POMS-resistant oyster.
A notifiable disease, POMS must be immediately reported to Fishwatch on 1800 065 522.