Pink snapper stocking on hold for 2024

The annual recreational re-stocking of Pink Snapper is on hold for 2024 as the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) responds to the detection of a finfish virus at its Fremantle hatchery.

DPIRD chief veterinary officer, Michelle Rodan, said a detection of betanodavirus, also known as nervous necrosis virus (NNV), in hatchery-reared juvenile pink snapper is under investigation.

Dr Rodan said DPIRD had implemented biosecurity measures at the hatchery to reduce the risk of the virus spreading from the affected fish.

Two tanks of pink snapper fingerlings intended for stock enhancement, including Recfishwest’s popular Snapper Guardians event, have been humanely euthanised after it was determined they could not be released due to the virus detection.

Dr Rodan said all fish species held at the hatchery were sampled and tested following the detection to support the ongoing investigation. No other species has tested positive to betanodavirus.

Betanodavirus can cause viral encephalopathy and retinopathy (VER), a disease that affects more than 50 marine finfish species and can cause significant mortality impacting aquaculture production.

Betanodavirus is known to occur in Australia, including northern WA, however some strains have not been detected in Australia.

The impacted snapper were not showing clinical signs of disease and at this stage there is no evidence of the disease VER in the hatchery.

Further investigations and diagnostic testing are underway to confirm the strain of virus through genome sequencing, whether the virus is infective and to attempt to determine the source of the virus.

DPIRD has confirmed there will be no pink snapper fingerlings available for release this year.

The stocking program is planned to resume with the next opportunity for egg collection from wild spawning snapper in Cockburn Sound in October and November for release in early 2025.