There was some good news for local oyster growers last week with the announcement of a $750,000 expansion to the Yumbah oyster hatchery – including a $250,000 boost from the state Regional Development Fund – which will allow the company to produce larger, more robust spat for the state’s struggling oyster industry.
This follows the opening last year of Eyre Shellfish hatchery at Cowell, which started sending out spat to growers at the end of December.
These operations will play an important part in providing a long-term solution to the spat shortage created when Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome broke out in Tasmania in early 2016, cutting off a significant source of South Australia’s spat supplies.
The larger spat from the new nursery at Point Boston should be available to growers in the second half of the year.
However it will still be a while before the spat grows to a size where it is making money for local growers who are facing a very tough year or two financially.
The Port Lincoln Times has previously reported on how growers at Coffin Bay are struggling to pay significant lease fees for leases without any oysters on them.
So far they have been unsuccessful in their requests for the fees to be waived or for the state government to introduce some form of relief – perhaps akin to the old ‘exceptional circumstances’ funding received by local land-based farmers in past drought years.
Environmental factors out of their control have left them in this position – just like farmers in drought situations.
Premier Jay Weatherill (pictured at Yumbah) said during his visit to the region last week the government was carefully considering a proposal from growers.
Without knowing exactly what the proposal may be or what the government will decide to do, if anything, it is too early to know if this will ease the industry’s woes but hopefully the upcoming state election may prompt more action to provide some relief than the growers have seen so far.
The Liberal Party also seems keen to support the industry and this week’s promise to reform aquaculture lease structures to enable lease holders to borrow against their leases is another sign that there may be positive action. Unfortunately nothing in politics seems to move that fast but then there is an election less than two months away so there may be hope.