It is now begging the Federal Government to ban human activity — including commercial and recreational fishing, surfing and diving — on stretches of the state's west coast because the devastating ganglioneuritis virus was recently found in waters closer to Melbourne, writes Melissa Fyfe in The age.
However authorities have admitted there is little they can do to stop the herpes-like virus and protect the $80 million abalone industry. The virus has already wiped $30 million off Australian industry's bottom line and the state's western abalone divers are on the brink of financial ruin, with quotas shrinking from 220 tonnes a year to 16.
"They are putting at risk the Victorian industry and the whole Australian industry," says Vin Gannon, the Victorian Abalone Divers Association chief executive officer. "We are astounded they won't try and stop the disease … I'm begging (Federal Fisheries Minister) Tony Burke to intervene. We can't believe we are watching an exotic disease destroy our marine environment and no one wants to help."
The industry wants a federally enforced quarantine that would see all human water-based activity — including the shutdown of the local rock lobster fishery — banned in the affected area around Port Campbell, the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park and Moonlight Head.
It believes humans are behind a 21-kilometre leap in the virus front, discovered 10 days ago near the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park. The virus, which is not harmful to humans, was discovered in December 2005 and has largely been contained west of Port Campbell. It appears to be moving quickly eastwards.
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