Abalone viral ganglioneuritis

Abalone viral ganglioneuritis (AVG) is caused by a herpes virus specific to abalone. It affects the abalone nervous system, causing weakness and eventually death.

AVG is a notifiable disease, meaning it must be reported.

AVG can spread through the water from:

  • infected abalone or abalone product (offal, shells or mucus),
  • fishing equipment (including wetsuits, anchors, rock lobster pots and ropes)
  • people who have come into contact with infected abalone or bottom habitat.

Although the virus has never been recorded in South Australia, ongoing surveillance is in place because of its potential to severely impact local abalone stocks and reef ecosystems. AVG is known to occur elsewhere in Australia.

Protecting South Australian abalone – temporary restrictions in place

Following the detection of AVG at Cape Nelson in Victoria and in some New South Wales abalone processors in May 2021, temporary restrictions have been introduced on fresh abalone products coming into South Australia from interstate, including recreationally caught abalone.

These restrictions are aimed at ensuring South Australian waters remain free of the disease.

Current restrictions effective 27 May 2021

South Australian Government Gazette - Prohibition of Entry into South Australia of Unprocessed Abalone  Thursday, 27 May 2021 (pp. 1506-1508)

  • Restrictions are in place on all live (wild or farmed) abalone and fresh abalone product coming into South Australia from interstate.
    • Exemptions apply for stock consigned directly to fish processors or retail markets, including restaurants, from accredited abalone farms or from Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland which are also regarded as being AVG free.
    • Exemptions also apply for stock consigned to fish processors from AVG affected jurisdictions.
  • Strict conditions apply for transporting, keeping and disposing of abalone and abalone waste by fish processors.
  • Members of the public are only permitted to bring cooked and/or preserved abalone in sealed packaging into South Australia from interstate.
  • No abalone sourced from interstate can enter an aquaculture farm or be deposited in South Australian waters.
  • Abalone cannot be used for bait or berley in South Australian waters.

Other ways you can help keep South Australian abalone free from AVG:

  • If you find dead abalone, especially clusters of shells, report it to Fishwatch on 1800 065 522.
  • Carefully follow decontamination guidelines [link down to decontamination details below] if you suspect you or your fishing / diving gear has come into contact with infected abalone or habitat, prior to use in SA waters.
  • Dispose of abalone shell, meat and gut in household rubbish, not at sea.

How to identify AVG

Clinical signs of AVG. Left image: curling of the foot - indicated by the yellow arrows. Right image: swollen mouth with an everted radula - indicated by the red arrow. Source: P Hardy-Smith (www.agriculture.gov.au).
Clinical signs of AVG. Left image: curling of the foot - indicated by the yellow arrows. Right image: swollen mouth with an everted radula - indicated by the red arrow. Source: P Hardy-Smith (www.agriculture.gov.au).

Signs of the disease can include:

  • High mortality (up to 90% dead) of abalone in an area.
  • Edges of the foot curled inwards, leading to poor suction to their tank or reef.
  • Swollen mouth parts (see picture above).
  • Excessive mucus production.

Guidelines for decontamination

If you suspect you, your fishing or dive gear has come in to contact with infected abalone or bottom habitat, take the following steps.

Decontaminating vessels

  • Remove all organic matter from the inside and outside of the vessel
  • Dispose all organic material on land, away from the water.
  • Move vessel away from the water and wash it with freshwater and detergent.

Decontaminating wetsuits and dive equipment

Use neoprene wash for wet suits and mild liquid soap for dive equipment. Soak in soapy freshwater for 30 minutes, rinse and allow to air dry.

If AVG is suspected or confirmed, then decontamination should also include the use of 200 ppm effective chlorine (e.g. 31 grams of pool chlorine in 100 L of water) for at least 20 minutes. For full details:

  1. Visit the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority permit search.
  2. Search for permit PER86206.

Decontaminating people

If you suspect you have come into contact with infected abalone:

  • Wash your hands with soapy freshwater.
  • Spray waterproof clothing with soapy freshwater, rinse and allow to air dry.
  • Wash clothes in laundry detergent.

Report suspected cases

AVG is a notifiable disease and must be reported.

Report suspected cases immediately to Fishwatch on 1800 065 522. The hotline operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

More information

Page Last Reviewed: 28 May 2021
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