South coast flathead deformities investigated

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DEFORMITITES found in sand flathead on the State’s south coast have been investigated by Department of Primary Industries (DPI), linking the changes to a fish parasite.

During 2015, reports of deformed sand flathead being captured in the Culburra Beach and Jervis Bay areas were made, with DPI launching an investigation into the cause.

Laboratory investigations indicated the presence of a parasite, known as Myxosporeans, in the fish examined which is known to cause spinal deformities.

These parasites are not known to have any adverse effects on human health and infection is confined to the fish and invertebrate host species.

The presence of parasites in wild fish is a relatively common occurrence, as part of natural aquatic ecosystems, and the numbers of affected fish can vary depending on a range of environmental factors.

DPI Acting Manager Animal Biosecurity Strategy and Standards, Melissa Walker, urged anglers to report suspected diseased fish.

“Recreational fishers who catch fish that are suspected to be diseased are urged to contact DPI, who will advise further action,” Ms Walker said.

“The community plays an important role in monitoring the health of the aquatic environment, and we encourage reports of suspected disease in wild fish to our reporting hotline or email, so that further investigation can be considered.”

Previous cases of sand flathead abnormalities associated with a similar Myxosporean parasite were noted in this region of the south coast of NSW during the late 1980s.

Suspected aquatic pest and disease reports should be made to the NSW Aquatic Biosecurity Pest and Disease hotline: (02) 4916 3877 or

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