Oyster farmers take on marine debris across Eurobodalla region

Over 250 oyster farmers across the country will come together this week to help combat the scourge of marine debris.

Out on the water every day, oyster farmers have an intimate knowledge of their local environment, and regularly pick up rubbish they find floating in the estuary. This February however, the industry is scaling up its efforts to do their bit, with oyster farmers organising to meet up with other growers and target marine debris hotspots.

Organised by OceanWatch Australia, this seafood industry initiative, dubbed Tide to Tip, is being launched on Monday 17th February with 22 growing regions participating over the next weeks. Clyde River, Tuross Lakes & Wagonga Inlet oyster farmers are all participating; volunteering time and equipment to clean-up efforts.

Local oyster farmer, Jim Yiannaros from Batemans Bay Oysters on the Clyde River, said

“The clean-up idea was flagged at our NSW Oyster Conference last August, and we couldn’t sign up fast enough. Although we are not hugely concerned about rubbish in Batemans Bay, we are concerned that people are not aware of the rubbish journey. Most rubbish, if not managed properly, ends up in our catchments where it contaminates our rivers and estuaries. We hope to get 15 oyster punts on the water to clean the bay, but also raise awareness among the community.

OceanWatch Australia, organisers of the program, hopes this is the first of many large-scale clean-ups led by the seafood industry that not only provides a way for fishers and farmers to give back to the estuaries on which their livelihoods depend, but helps to ensure Australian waterways remain pristine and healthy for generations to come.

Given all that the oyster industry has experienced in recent months with drought, fires & floods, organiser Andy Myers is amazed at the commitment from farmers to push ahead with the program. “It’s unbelievable. Over the last couple of months, oyster farmers have had to deal with fires, massive floods, and a fraction of their usual summer income, and, yet, after these back-to-back disasters they are still willing to give up their time to get out there and clean-up. It’s a testament to the people in this industry that they so value the environment in which they work.

Another oyster farmer involved in the clean-up is Linda Fernhough from Out of the Blue Oysters, who is coordinating the clean-up in Wagonga Inlet. “The oyster industry clean-up event provides us an opportunity to think globally and act locally. Working in an outdoor environment has its challenges; weather, industry and equipment. We need to work together to help keep our inlets clean.”

Last year the oyster industry across Eurobodalla grew and sold over 12 million oysters to hungry shellfish lovers. The industry supports hundreds of jobs and is an important part of the local economy.

The Tide to Tip program is supported by OceanWatch Australia, Clean Up Australia Day, NSW Local Land Services and the NSW Landcare Program. The NSW Landcare Program is a partnership between Local Land Services and Landcare NSW Inc. supported by the NSW Government.