South Australia’s oyster industry on the mend

The South Australian oyster industry is a step closer to recovery, no longer needing government supplied juvenile oysters (spat) now and able to rely on spat produced by four commercial Eyre Peninsula suppliers.

Three years ago the SA oyster industry was affected by a severe spat supply shortage due to an outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) in Tasmania. To reduce the risk of spreading to our oyster growing regions, there was a ban on South Australian growers importing Pacific Oyster spat from Tasmania, where more than 80 per cent of spat was previously sourced.

SA’s minister for primary industries and regional development Tim Whetstone praised the efforts of growers and Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) in working together to address the challenges associated with the spat supply shortage.

“This is a significant milestone for the oyster farming industry. I praise the efforts of growers and PIRSA in working together to address the challenges associated with the spat supply shortage,” said Whetstone.

“Over the past three years, PIRSA’s research division SARDI has produced 106.5 million spat for the state’s Pacific Oyster aquaculture industry – 30 million, 34 million and 42.5 million in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19, respectively.

Whetstone said the state government had continued to work to reduce the feral oyster population and associated POMS viral load in Port River through targeted cull of oysters.

“There is still work to do and we remain committed to supporting our oyster growers and the many associated regional jobs to recover and to unlock new opportunities,” he said.

The  industry-SARDI research partnership will be built on through a breeding program to produce POMS resistant oysters which Whetstone would help “future-proof” the industry.

“SARDI has already produced 126 Pacific Oyster families under the Australian Seafood Industries selective breeding program and an additional 31 families are currently under development which will become the founding population of a selective breeding program,” Whetsone said.

SA Oyster Growers Association executive officer Trudy McGowan praised PIRSA for their efforts to boost spat production in the wake of the spat shortage faced by the industry.

“This assistance has been vital in ensuring the long-term viability of the South Australian oyster farming industry,” said McGowan.

“We are pleased to be in a position where we are confident in the strong production results we are seeing from our local hatcheries and optimistic that we are now on track to a healthy recovery.”

Oyster farmers anticipate boost in business with new finance plan

Oyster farmers are hoping for greater investment with the release of a new financial strategy.

The strategy, supported by the government’s farming together program, was endorsed by Ocean Watch and the NSW Farmers Oyster Committee.

It is made up of five documents including, industry factsheets and templates, to help address industry priorities.

The aim is to improve the sector’s ability to secure bank and other sources of finance.

READ: NSW gov finds pearl in oyster industry

Kel Henry from Wonboyn Rock Oysters, who is a member of the Oyster Strategy Implementation Group, said this priority stemmed from the finance sectors’ lack of awareness and understanding about the oyster industry and its potential for growth.

He approached the Australian government’s farming together program and developed a finance support pack with consultant, Mel Trethowan.

“It was great to work with Mel on the project. I would recommend the farming together program as a very valuable initiative and in my opinion the outcome for our industry was really outstanding,” he said.

The materials in the pack would help educate the finance industry about the oyster industry and its investment potential, said Henry.

“It will also increase the ability of farmers to access appropriate and timely finance to upgrade, innovate and grow their businesses,” he said.

Farming together program director Lorraine Gordon said it was an enabling project strongly supported by the producers and their wider industry.

“We hope it will encourage new interest and offer new paths to capital from banks and investors.”

The $13.8 million program was designed to help agricultural groups secure premium pricing, scale-up production and attract capital investment.

In two years the farming together program has had contact with more than 28,500 farmers.

In its first year the program turned a $9.21m investment into $20.45m of value-added production, creating 131 full-time equivalent jobs.

The farming together pilot program was delivered by Southern Cross University. It finished on the 30th of June 2018.