Mass mortalities of unknown aetiology in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas in Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia

Jeffrey Go, Ania T. Deutscher, Zoe B. Spiers, Kirk Dahle, Peter D. Kirkland, Cheryl Jenkins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


From January to June 2013 and November to January 2014, mass mortalities were reported in Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas cultivated in Port Stephens estuary, New South Wales, Australia. In some cases, 100% mortality was reported in both triploid and diploid C. gigas, although native species of oyster cultivated in the same areas remained unaffected. Histological examination of oysters sampled from the time of mortality events revealed consistent but non-specific pathology, involving a diffuse haemocytic infiltrate in the connective tissue surrounding the digestive gland, extending into the mantle in some instances, but no other signs of any infectious aetiological agent. We conducted a structured survey in early January 2014 to compare samples of C. gigas from affected and unaffected areas by bacteriology and histopathology. Quantitative PCR excluded involvement of ostreid herpesvirus-1 (OsHV-1) in these mortality events. To determine whether a directly transmissible aetiological agent was responsible for the mortalities, naïve C. gigas sourced from an estuary where no evidence of mortality was reported were challenged with material derived from affected oysters. Significant mortality was only observed in naïve C. gigas directly inoculated with purified cultures of Vibrio spp. isolated from affected oysters, but this could not be replicated by cohabitation with naïve C. gigas. Analysis of environmental data indicated that mortality events generally coincided with periods of low salinity and high temperature. The results from this study suggest that the cause of the mortality events was multifactorial in nature and not due to any single directly transmissible aetiological agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Crassostrea gigas
  • summer mortality
  • environmental stress
  • Vibrio
  • bivalve
  • aquaculture


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