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French oyster industry will have to seek other oyster seed suppliers to face the lethal virus issue. (Photo: YouTube/Stock File/FIS)

Efforts to curb oyster herpes in France take a blow

Click on the flag for more information about Japan JAPAN
Thursday, May 19, 2011, 22:20 (GMT + 9)

The damages suffered by the Japanese aquaculture industry and fears of radioactive contamination in its oysters are forcing the French oyster industry to look elsewhere for a solution regarding the virus that has for three years been killing 60 per cent of its young molluscs.

In 2010, mollusc production in France fell 38 per cent, pushing wholesale prices up 20 per cent. Its oyster industry was worth EUR 400 million in 2010.

France had been planning to mitigate the disaster at home by procuring Japanese seeds, but the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March ravaged Miyagi prefecture’s fishing industry, which generated 80 per cent of Japan’s oyster seeds in 2009.

“This delays our exit from the crisis,” lamented Maryline Maingam, a spokesperson for France’s National Shellfish Committee, reports Bloomberg. “For the next two years, we’ll have 40 to 50 per cent production losses.”

The Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson, Veronique Lopes, announced that this entity is issuing a new list of possible oyster importers.

A variant of Ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1), the oyster virus has reappeared along the French coast in 2011 and mostly afflicts shellfish under one year of age, said Tristan Renault, director of the genetics and pathology laboratory at the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER) in La Tremblade.

It is expected that the situation may deteriorate after 2012, when many of the French colonies killed by the virus would have been ready for harvest and also when the oysters imported from Japan would have been growing.

Oyster fishers in Miyagi have already missed the 2011 harvesting season and they will not be able to plant seeds for the breeding season that normally commences in July. All along the prefecture’s coast, fishing and farming have been suspended.

Miyagi oysters (Crassostrea gigas) are popular because of their burly resistance to infectious diseases, so they have often been shipped abroad to juice up farming or crops wiped out by disease. This talent has made Crassostrea gigas the most widely farmed oyster species anywhere, Renault explained.

The global oyster industry was valued at USD 3.3 billion in 2009. It has also been plagued by OsHV-1 in Ireland, England, New Zealand and Australia.

Related articles:

- Nelson oyster hatchery halts operations due to virus 
- Panel asked for advice on oyster deaths 

By Natalia Real


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