DAO 125:227-242 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03146

Mass mortalities of unknown aetiology in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas in Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia

Jeffrey Go1, Ania T. Deutscher1, Zoe B. Spiers1, Kirk Dahle2, Peter D. Kirkland1, Cheryl Jenkins1,*

1Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Menangle, NSW 2568, Australia
2Port Stephens Fisheries Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Taylors Beach, NSW 2316, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: From January to June 2013 and November to January 2014, mass mortalities were reported in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas cultivated in Port Stephens estuary, New South Wales, Australia. In some cases, 100% mortality was reported in both triploid and diploid C. gigas, although native species of oyster cultivated in the same areas remained unaffected. Histological examination of oysters sampled from the time of mortality events revealed consistent but non-specific pathology, involving a diffuse haemocytic infiltrate in the connective tissue surrounding the digestive gland, extending into the mantle in some instances, but no other signs of any infectious aetiological agent. We conducted a structured survey in early January 2014 to compare samples of C. gigas from affected and unaffected areas by bacteriology and histopathology. Quantitative PCR excluded involvement of ostreid herpesvirus-1 (OsHV-1) in these mortality events. To determine whether a directly transmissible aetiological agent was responsible for the mortalities, naïve C. gigas sourced from an estuary where no evidence of mortality was reported were challenged with material derived from affected oysters. Significant mortality was only observed in naïve C. gigas directly inoculated with purified cultures of Vibrio spp. isolated from affected oysters, but this could not be replicated by cohabitation with naïve C. gigas. Analysis of environmental data indicated that mortality events generally coincided with periods of low salinity and high temperature. The results from this study suggest that the cause of the mortality events was multifactorial in nature and not due to any single directly transmissible aetiological agent.


KEY WORDS: Crassostrea gigas · Summer mortality · Environmental stress · Vibrio · Bivalve · Aquaculture


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Cite this article as: Go J, Deutscher AT, Spiers ZB, Dahle K, Kirkland PD, Jenkins C (2017) Mass mortalities of unknown aetiology in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas in Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia. Dis Aquat Org 125:227-242. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03146

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