Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome

Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) is a disease which affects Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas) and is caused by a virus called OsHV-1 micro variant. It causes rapid and high mortalities in farmed oysters (up to 100% within days of being detected) and can spread quickly if introduced.

South Australia is the last oyster growing state in Australia to remain POMS free. The first Australian case of POMS was recorded in 2010 in New South Wales, with the most recent outbreak detected in Tasmania in 2016.

Since the NSW outbreak general restrictions have been in place for importing oysters into SA to prevent disease introduction and safeguard South Australia’s $32 million oyster growing industry. See the moving aquatic organisms page for more information.

There are no human health implications associated with POMS, which only affects the Pacific Oyster. South Australia produces some of the finest Pacific oysters on the market and table oysters purchased from retailers, restaurants and fish processors are safe to eat.

Tasmanian outbreak 2016 – South Australian impact

POMS was first detected in Tasmania on 1 February 2016. For more information on the Tasmanian outbreak, see the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

The detection led to ban on the movement of live Pacific Oysters, oyster spat and used farming equipment originating from Tasmania into South Australia. This ban is necessary to ensure the disease doesn’t enter SA and is in place until 31 March 2019.

View the Declaration of a Livestock Standstill in relation to Pacific Oyster (page 603)

South Australian licensed Fish Processors have been notified of the ban and asked not to purchase, receive or open any live Pacific Oysters originating from Tasmania during the standstill. View fact sheet for more information (DOC 174.5 KB).

No cases of POMS have been recorded in South Australia. Samples from all 8 oyster growing regions have not detected the virus that causes the disease. The ban is a vital step in protecting South Australia’s oyster industry and applies to all live Pacific Oyster sourced from Tasmania. Non-living oysters, including those that are frozen or half shelled, can be brought into South Australia.

South Australian oyster farmers previously received regular consignments of oyster spat from well-established hatcheries in Tasmania and the movement ban has resulted in a shortfall of spat to the South Australian industry.

PIRSA and the South Australia Oyster Growers Association are working together to address the issues associated with the outbreak of POMS in Tasmania through a dedicated specialist working group established by PIRSA when the outbreak first occurred. This effort is focused on not only ensuring the disease doesn’t enter SA, but re-establishing spat supply.

Media releases

State Government support to boost local oyster industry – 26 May 2016
South Australia Free of Oyster Disease – 11 February 2016
Protecting South Australia’s oyster industry from POMS – 5 February 2016

What you can do to help

You can play a vital role in protecting South Australia’s oyster industry and the regional businesses and employment that depend on it.

If you are travelling into or through South Australia, help keep SA disease free by:

  • Regardless of the point of purchase, check the origin of any oysters you are carrying. Dispose of any Tasmanian-sourced live oysters into landfill or at quarantine stations across SA.
  • Never discard or store live oysters you are carrying in any SA waters. It is an offence under the Fisheries Management Act 2007 to release or deposit exotic and/or aquaculture farmed species (such as Pacific Oysters) into the waters of South Australia and fines may apply.
  • Do not use Pacific oysters, even when dead, as bait or berley. If you catch your own bait, use it only in the water body where it came from and never release live bait into a water body other than the one it was caught in.

PIRSA’s Biosecurity SA officers at quarantine stations at Yamba, Oodla Wirra, Pinnaroo and Ceduna will be checking for oysters while inspecting vehicles for fruit and vegetables as part of our regular efforts against fruit fly.

If you are travelling into or through South Australia read the fact sheet (DOC 135.0 KB) to find out how you can help keep South Australia POMS free.

Detecting and reporting the disease for oyster farmers

Report unexplained oyster mortality of greater than 10% at grading, and particularly during warmer months with sea temperatures above 17 degrees, to Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA).

Take the following steps to report the disease:

  1. Collect at least 30 live oysters from the mortality site.
  2. Collect another 30 samples from another batch where there are no unusual mortalities occurring, if possible.
  3. Calculate the percentage of oysters that have died.
  4. Bag, label, and place fresh samples on ice. Do not freeze.
  5. Courier samples to lab within 24 hours of collecting them.
  6. Report to Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) using the contact details below.
  7. Report to your Bay Representative or the South Australian Oyster Growers Association.
  8. Decontaminate personnel and equipment with chlorine-based disinfectant.

View fact sheet on reporting POMS (DOCX 169.1 KB)


POMS is a notifiable disease and must be immediately reported.

Report suspicion of POMS to one of the following:

Fishwatch: 1800 065 522
Dr Shane Roberts, PIRSA Aquatic Animal Health Officer
Phone (08) 8429 0505 or 0402 049 286.

Page Last Reviewed: 11 Feb 2016
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