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Travellers Warned as AVG Potection Measures are Stepped Up

NEW ZEALAND - The Biosecurity department of New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAFBNZ) is urging travellers to Australia to be mindful of a serious virus destroying its abalone stocks in Victoria.

It wants travellers to take precautions to avoid inadvertently carrying Abalone Virus Ganglioneuritis (AVG) back to New Zealand waters and its precious paua - which is a member of the ablone family.

MAFBNZ scientists say that while it's not certain the herpes-like virus would affect New Zealand paua, there's every indication it would. If AVG gets a stronghold, then it would have a severe impact on commercial, customary and recreational fishing as well as tourism and export industries associated with NZ paua.

'Clean and dry' is the best way to protect New Zealand paua, as the virus appears to survive in damp gear, advises say MAFBNZ officials.

MAFBNZ has strict border measures in place to prevent the virus jumping the Tasman and establishing itself in New Zealand shellfish. These include a range of Import Health Standards (IHS) which prohibit the importation of live abalone, require shells imported to be clean and dry, and require abalone for human consumption to be shelled and cooked to destroy any possibility of AVG infection.

There are also IHS requirements for equipment associated with the water to be clean and dry before it can enter New Zealand. this includes aquaculture implements, diving and fishing gear.

MAFBNZ Director Border Standards Tim Knox says while he is confident that the current requirements in place are sufficient to keep AVG out of New Zealand, Kiwis returning from Victoria and Australian visitors have a role to play in keeping the disease out.

Personal responsibilities
"It's very important that if people have been swimming or diving on the Victorian coast, they ensure their togs, wetsuits and other diving or surfing gear are thoroughly washed and dried before bringing them home and hopping into New Zealand waters," said Mr Knox. "It's equally important that those who've been beach rambling in the area are aware their footwear should be clean and dry before returning home and that they avoid gathering shells," he added.

MAFBNZ is stressing that all people returning from Australia should declare on arrival that they've been using the Victorian coast and/or are carrying shells or gear for water activities in order that Biosecurity Inspectors can check that they are safe.

MAFBNZ hopes people with friends and relatives in Victoria who are planning to visit New Zealand let them know of the paua virus concerns and spread the 'clean and dry' message.

Further Reading

       - Go to a previous article on this subject by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy

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