DAO 121:173-188 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03011

Pathology of finfish and mud crabs Scylla serrata during a mortality event associated with a harbour development project in Port Curtis, Australia

M. M. Dennis1,2, B. K. Diggles3, R. Faulder4, L. Olyott5, S. B. Pyecroft6, G. E. Gilbert7,8, M. Landos9,*

1QML Vetnostics, Murarrie, QLD 4172, Australia
2Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies
3DigsFish Services Pty Ltd, Bribie Island, QLD 4507, Australia
4University of Newcastle, Central Coast Campus, Ourimbah, NSW 2258, Australia
5Len Olyott Consulting, Bellbowrie, QLD 4070, Australia
6University of Adelaide, School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy Campus, SA 5173, Australia
7DeVry Medical International’s Institute for Research and Clinical Strategy, 485 US Highway 1 South, Building B, Floor 4, Iselin, NJ 08830, USA
8Center for Teaching and Learning, Ross University School of Medicine, PO Box 266, Roseau 00152, Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies
9Future Fisheries Veterinary Service Pty Ltd, East Ballina, NSW 2478, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to assess the extent and describe the nature of a multi-species marine finfish and crustacean disease event that occurred in Gladstone Harbour, Australia, 2011-2012. Finfish were examined for this study in January to April 2012 from sites where diseased animals were previously observed by the public. Gross abnormalities, including excessive skin and gill mucus, erythema, heavy ecto-parasitism, cutaneous ulceration, corneal opacity, and exophthalmos, were higher (25.5%) in finfish from Gladstone Harbour (n = 435) than in those from an undeveloped reference site, 250 km to the north (5.5%, n = 146, p < 0.0001). Microscopic abnormalities, especially non-infectious erosive to ulcerative dermatitis and internal parasitism, were more prevalent in fish from Gladstone Harbour (n = 34 of 36, prevalence = 94.4%) than in fish from the reference site (3 of 23, prevalence = 13.0% p < 0.0001). The prevalence of shell lesions was higher in mud crabs Scylla serrata sampled from Gladstone Harbour (270 of 718, prevalence = 37.5%) than from the reference site (21 of 153, prevalence = 13.7%; p < 0.0001). The significantly higher prevalence of ulcerative skin disease and parasitism in a range of species suggests affected animals were subjected to influences in Gladstone Harbour that were not present in the control sites. The disease epidemic coincided temporally and spatially with water quality changes caused by a harbour development project. The unique hydrology, geology, and industrial history of the harbour, the scope of the development of the project, and the failure of a bund wall built to retain dredge spoil sediment were important factors contributing to this epidemic.


KEY WORDS: Dredging · Gladstone · Disease · Teleosts · Elasmobranchs · Crustaceans


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Cite this article as: Dennis MM, Diggles BK, Faulder R, Olyott L, Pyecroft SB, Gilbert GE, Landos M (2016) Pathology of finfish and mud crabs Scylla serrata during a mortality event associated with a harbour development project in Port Curtis, Australia. Dis Aquat Org 121:173-188. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03011

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