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Oysters on Terra Firma

Sydney rock oysters will be grown on land as Southern Cross University scientists investigate ways to lessen the impact of significant rainfall events that can close some NSW estuaries for much of the year.

“The oysters will be held in a controlled environment on land for up to 3 weeks where they can be isolated from poor quality river water, and can therefore be harvested independent of weather conditions,” says Dr Ken Cowden. “This will provide surety of supply to buyers and a greater turnover for farmers, which in turn will significantly enhance the viability and sustainability of the Sydney rock oyster industry.”

Oyster farming is NSW’s largest aquaculture industry, generating upwards of $30 million per annum. However, oyster industry representative Joe Pearce says that “rainfall events resulted in a closure of 270 days in the Bellinger River last year… Shifts in climate patterns may further exacerbate this problem.”

The research project involves a pilot land-based oyster basket tank that will assess various conditions ahead of larger trials with collaborating farms. “Foremost of the research is finding a food which is easy and economical to use, and which will not alter the flavour of the oysters,” Cowden says. “The additional costs which this system will impose are expected to be more than offset by greater flexibility and opportunity in marketing, and potentially in labour savings.”