EPA confirms fish herpes virus outbreak the cause of mass fish kills in Macquarie Harbour

Following yesterday’s media revelations of mass fish kills in Macquarie Harbour, EPA Director Wes Ford has this morning confirmed a disease outbreak at Tassal and Petuna pens has been a cause of mass mortalities.  

“Yesterday both Tassal and Petuna refused to disclose the cause of fish kills in the harbour, but this morning EPA Director, Wes Ford, answered direct questions from the ABC and confirmed an outbreak of the Pilchard Orthomyxovirus (POMV), a type of fish herpes, in Macquarie Harbour,” says Laura Kelly, Environment Tasmania.

“This is worrying because it confirms industry and environment group’s fears that the EPA has sanctioned serious biosecurity risks in Macquarie Harbour. Earlier this year Huon Aquaculture identified a rise in disease as a major risk of the Government’s decision to allow Tassal to stock above the legal biomass cap and capture fish faeces in tarps under their pens.”

“Given Petuna have indicated they intend to join Tassal in getting around compliance issues by capturing fish waste with tarps, there needs to be an immediate investigation into whether capturing faecal matter with tarps, rather than cutting biomass, has contributed to this disease outbreak,” Ms Kelly says.

The EPA has also confirmed that dissolved oxygen levels in Macquarie Harbour are lower than at this time last year, but that they have issued no management directives to salmon companies in response to cumulative threats in the harbour.

“With disease outbreaks, mass fish kills and oxygen levels lower than we faced last year, it is clear that the Hodgman Government is failing to manage major threats to the salmon industry and endangered species in Macquarie Harbour.”

“Unfortunately EPA Director Wes Ford also confirmed on radio this morning that he has issued no management directives to salmon companies in response to the latest disease outbreak and fish kill – Tassal and Petuna are being left to self-regulate while the harbour suffocates,” Ms Kelly says.

POMV coincides with multiple stresses and usually results in high mortalities. It causes necrosis in the liver, kidney and heart, inflammation in the eye and skin lesions. It is in the same family as the ISA Virus, which has caused severe disruption and economic losses to the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industries in Europe, North America and Chile. There is currently no vaccine for POMV.

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