Region’s oysters on the menu for fresh research
OYSTER farmers are closely monitoring outcomes of groundbreaking research, which could open up new production opportunities on the Coffs Coast.
Research is under way at Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre to assess the viability of growing Sydney rock oysters in land-based tanks during the final stages of their growth period.
The project is designed to protect the shellfish from weather conditions that threaten farming operations in local estuaries.
Aquaculture operations manager Ken Cowden said oysters were being fed in tanks and monitored for changes in condition.
"The bulk of the growing still occurs in estuaries, but the oysters come on land and are held in a tank for at least three weeks," Mr Cowden said.
"The most important aspect of the research is finding a food which is easy and economical to use and will not alter the flavour of the oysters."
The project follows a challenging season for the industry, including the closure of the Bellinger River for 270 days last year due to heavy rainfall.
"Weather conditions are having a major impact on industry," Mr Cowden said.
"At the moment oyster farmers are shut out from selling when there's an adverse weather event which can last for months.
"The additional costs which (on-land farming) will impose are expected to be more than offset by greater flexibility and opportunity in marketing and potentially in labour savings.
"If all goes well, the plan is to build a commercial facility near the estuaries which has the potential to change the dynamics of the industry on the Coffs Coast and Australia-wide."
Research is undertaken from the centre's seawater reticulation system in alliance with local oyster farmers and drawing on the expertise of researchers from the NSW Department of Primary Industry's Port Stephens Fisheries Institute oyster team.
Oyster farming is New South Wales' largest aquaculture industry, generating more than $30million per year and employing around 1500 people.
For more about the National Marine Science Centre visit scu.edu.au.