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Herpes outbreak endangers oysters

An outbreak of the herpes virus in oysters could be potentially "devastating" for stocks of the shellfish, experts have warned.

Samples taken from the Pacific oyster species harvested off the coast of Whitstable, Kent, have tested positive for the incurable Oyster Herpesvirus type 1 (OsHV-1). It is the first time it has been detected in stocks in the UK. It had previously been detected in France, Jersey and Ireland.

The movement of oysters has now been banned in the area in an effort to contain the outbreak, with The Swale, Thames and north Kent coast within the inclusion zone. Inspectors from the Fish Health Inspectorate investigated after the company Seasalter Shellfish noticed a high mortality rate among its Pacific oyster stocks. Its managing director John Bayes said he feared a "total wipeout" of the shellfish.