Bonamia poses substantial threat to flat oysters, and its discovery off the island was confirmed by New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) on May 31st, much to the alarm of scientists from the Cawthron Institute, one of the leading global players in the culture of bivalves.
The institute’s Aquaculture Group Manager, Dr Serean Adams, explained the need for research in this area, saying: "Bonamia ostreae was discovered at the top of the South Island two years ago and has now been found at Stewart Island farms.
"We know European flat oysters have been impacted by this pathogen, and indications from overseas research suggests selective breeding for resilience is possible. Much of our current knowledge is based on the experiences of countries with related oyster species.
"There’s a need for targeted research on the New Zealand species and we hope to work with Government agencies and industry on this."
Cawthron has a wealth of relevant experience; having successfully bred herpes-resilient Pacific oysters, following the 2010 ostreid herpes (OsHV-1) virus outbreak.
"With our background in shellfish health and selective breeding, the Cawthron Aquaculture Group is well-placed to respond to the Bonamia ostreae parasite.
"The ostreid herpes virus almost wiped out New Zealand’s Pacific oyster stocks in 2010 so our team worked fast to breed strong, virus resilient families. Now in 2017, the New Zealand Pacific oyster industry is thriving," Dr Adams said.
Cawthron’s Aquaculture Group is currently working on a research strategy document for the New Zealand flat oyster aquaculture industry, as part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) cultured shellfish programme.
They operate a purpose-built aquaculture research facility in Nelson, the Cawthron Aquaculture Park, which is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cawthron Institute recognises the vigilance of the MPI’s surveillance programme and their efforts to limit the further spread of Bonamia ostreae.