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Can’t be too careful over Paua mystery virus

Can’t be too careful over Paua mystery virus says industry

29 November 2007

“Our much loved and culturally significant Paua could be gone in five years if a mysterious virus sweeping the Victorian Coast of Australia gets into New Zealand,” said Paua Industry Council chief executive Jeremy Cooper today.

Seafood industry representatives and other stakeholders say that while the probability of the virus reaching New Zealand is currently quite low, they are pleased that the Government is informing the traveling public about how to keep gear used in the sea ‘clean and dry’ when returning to New Zealand to prevent the virus from crossing the Tasman and infecting local paua populations.

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council has joined with the Paua Industry Council to encourage the Government to alert New Zealanders and other travelers to the simple actions of ensuring their water activity gear, such as togs, wetsuits and shoes, are ‘clean and dry’.

“It’s believed that mucous exuded by infected and dying abalone is the cause of the spread of the disease. The mucus gets into wet suits, rash vests and shoes and then is transported in unclean, damp gear to the next point of contact. So it’s very important that people clean and dry their gear – especially divers and surfers,” said Mr Cooper.

“The AVG virus is not present in New Zealand Paua,” Mr Cooper said, “but we cannot afford for a single molecule to be carried into New Zealand waters.”

The probability of it transferring to New Zealand may not be high, however the consequences of it happening would be devastating and irreversible, destroying commercial, customary and recreational fishing as well as tourism and export industries associated with paua, he said.

“Public awareness is crucial - Kiwis need to know why and how they can protect our Paua, especially before summer. We welcome the Government’s ‘clean and dry’ message and we urge them to implement a strong and highly visible public awareness campaign immediately. People need to know about this and what to do before the holidays start.”

The industry hoped that travelers would be careful and would responsibly self-declare any gear or items that could be a risk when coming through New Zealand’s border control, Mr Cooper said.

“It’s better to be safe, than sorry and the MAF Biosecurity New Zealand border control staff will be very happy to check gear for people who are being careful.”

AVG (abalone ganglioneuritis) has killed green and black lipped abalone along the Victoria coast and has traveled 100km in two years, killing up to 90% of population. The virus was first detected in farmed abalone two years ago. Very little is known about the disease, but the Australian government is carrying out research as quickly as possible to determine more.


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