BUILDING RESOURCE SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE NEW SOUTH WALES OYSTER INDUSTRY – A STAKEHOLDER PARTNERSHIP
Steve McOrrie and Ian Lyall
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia
Key words: oyster, aquaculture, environmental sustainability, resource security.
New South Wales (NSW) is located on the east coast of Australia and is Australia’s most populous state. For over 100 years the oyster industry in NSW has operated entirely on public intertidal and sub-tidal lands leased from the NSW Government. At its peak in the mid 1970’s the oyster industry was operating in 39 estuaries spread along the state’s 1100km coastline and was producing over 200 million oysters annually; valued at approximately US$160M at today’s farm gate prices.
By the mid 1980’s oyster production was in serious decline due to the cumulative impacts of food poisoning events, disease outbreaks, exotic species incursion and rapidly increasing production costs. By the late 1990’s annual oyster production had fallen by over 50% and many farming businesses had failed. This resulted in a rapidly growing environmental legacy of abandoned intertidal tarred timber oyster infrastructure in estuarine waters throughout the state. The visual amenity, waste disposal and public navigation issues associated with the collapse of the industry led to increasing levels of conflict between the industry, the general public and a number of government agencies.
The NSW Government and the oyster industry recognized that urgent action was required if the oyster industry was to continue to operate in the state’s highly valued public estuarine waters. This talk will outline the whole of government approach taken in NSW to arrest the oyster industry’s decline by implementing measures to protect water quality in oyster growing areas, implement environmentally sustainable farming practices and to provide resource security for the NSW oyster industry. In particular the talk will outline the actions taken by the oyster industry at the state and estuary level to rebuild their environmental credentials and secure their “social license to operate” with local communities and other users of the state’s highly valued estuarine water resources.