Mysterious Condition Killing Young Oysters

A pearl farm in Western Australia is investigating a mysterious condition killing young oysters and crippling the region's industry.

Until about eight years ago, the pristine waters of WA's west Kimberley coast were producing the world's largest pearls.

But as the unknown condition killed young oysters, the number of WA pearl producers shrank from a dozen to just two.

Cygnet Bay Pearls general manager James Brown said it was not known whether the oyster deaths were caused by a disease, a virus or a change in environment.

"In spite of the Fisheries Department or the industry's best efforts we still can't even identify what it is," he said.

"We don't know if it's a virus or just something in the environment that changed."

Mr Brown has begun a research project on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, to find out.

He has built a hatchery, growing a range of oysters in tanks to work out which have the most resilient genes.

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