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Eliminating oyster waste to regrow an industry

Queensland’s push to increase oyster production 100-fold will be bolstered by a three-year project dedicated to reducing the ‘overcatch’ challenges that have significantly impacted the state’s industry over the past century.

‘Overcatch’, or ‘fouling’, occurs when juvenile oysters (wild spat) or other aquatic organisms attach themselves to semi-mature oysters, leading to substantial crop losses.

It is estimated that over 30%, or $20 million worth, of Sydney rock oysters (SRO) grown in Queensland and northern NSW are wasted annually due to overcatch.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is working with research and industry partners to evaluate various existing and emerging techniques for controlling overcatch: air drying, heat immersion, SED Graders cold shock system, and the FlipFarm system.

Trials with the various techniques will be conducted at established commercial oyster leases in Queensland’s Moreton Bay region.

The research findings will provide essential outputs including validated methods and ‘best management practices’ for managing overcatch and will be widely disseminated to the national oyster industry through various forums.

These outcomes will provide tangible avenues to reduce oyster crop losses, increase industry profitability, create circular economy jobs, and train industry people.

This research is a co-funded collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fight Food Waste CRC and the Australian Government’s Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), along with industry partners Kooringal Oysters, Moreton Bay Rock Oysters, Gold Coast Oysters, and SED Graders.

“With the Queensland Government in particular seeking to rejuvenate its oyster industry, and the entire Australian oyster farming sector looking to expand and boost production, the outcomes of the project will prove both relevant and timely.” Said Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner.

“At a time when Queensland and NSW oyster farming is very much under threat, this project is extremely positive and opportune as it directly responds to one of the major issues facing Sydney rock oyster growers”. Said Queensland Oyster Growers Association president and Moreton Bay Rock Oysters’ Wade McFadgen.

“As a new oyster grower, having access to the best practices and technologies for managing overcatch will ultimately decide whether we will survive or not.

“This project and associated collaboration between industry, research and commercial entities is really exciting as it will deliver these outcomes for both emerging and established growers.” Said Queensland Oyster Growers Association vice-president and Kooringal Oysters’ Andrew Robson.

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