Farm settles in abalone virus case
One of the defendants in an $82 million class action over the wipeout of one-third of Australia's abalone industry has settled ahead of a Supreme Court trial.
Southern Ocean Mariculture, the abalone farm that unleashed the herpes-like virus in 2006, has reached an in-principle agreement with 10 abalone licence holders.
Before the outbreak the licence holders controlled about 32 per cent of Victoria's abalone exports, which generated about $70 million a year.
Many have had their life savings eroded, with the cost of commercial licences plunging from about $6 million in 2006, to less than $1 million.
Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese, acting on behalf of the licence holders, said the terms of the settlement were confidential and still being finalised.
Southern Ocean Mariculture was one of two defendants in the class action, the other being the Victorian government, which has been accused of failing to control the spread of the disease.
Mr Varghese welcomed the settlement and said it gave the firm a clear focus to pursue the state government.
"This settlement does not affect the outstanding issues in the class action still being run against the state government, which has always been the primary respondent," he said.
Southern Ocean Mariculture reported the outbreak to the Department of Primary Industries, but the DPI failed to shut down the farm, allowing it to continue to pump contaminated water into the ocean, Mr Varghese said.
The disease hit wild abalone and soon spread from near the Victorian-South Australian border to Cape Otway.
The trial is to begin in the Victorian Supreme Court on Monday.