Karuah oyster farmers concerned over ongoing thefts

Dean Cole is third generation in the oyster industry.
Dean Cole is third generation in the oyster industry.

 

ACCORDING to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), oyster thefts cost NSW farmers thousands of dollars every year, both in loss of stock and equipment.

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Dean and Stephen Cole from Cole Bros Oysters in Karuah, who are third generation in the industry, said oyster theft “has always been an issue”.

“You always notice some gone, but this year the amounts have been bigger, commercial quantities,” Dean said.

“Instead of losing 30 or 40 dozen, some farmers have noticed 20 trays taken with 600 dozen.”

Dean said there are about 40 farmers in the Port Stephens area, and around half have lost oysters in the past few years.

“Tea Gardens has probably been one of the worst areas hit,” he said.

“Around Corrie Island and down to Lemon Tree Passage and Soldiers Point, have also been hit hard and also Pindimar Bay and around the Karuah River.”

In response to the ongoing thefts, the DPI is working with NSW Police to detect and deter the black marketing of the delicacies.

“Fisheries Officers regularly conduct covert surveillance operations to detect the unauthorised removal of oysters from oyster leases,” a spokesperson from the NSW DPI said.

“They also provide oyster farmers with advice on preventative measures, including the use of surveillance cameras.”

Dean said the use of cameras at Wallis Lake stopped thefts completely, and local farmers are now resorting to the same security measures.

“Cameras will be strategically placed and moved randomly, even the farmers won’t know where they are,” he said.

Figures from the DPI show that 769,743 dozen Sydney Rock Oysters, valued at over $5.8million, were produced in the Port Stephens area in 2015-2016.

Dean said there is always a big demand for local oysters at this time of the year.

“In terms of sellable oysters, we’ve got some of the best going into Sydney markets and along the East Coast now,” he said.

“There’s been good conditions and they are really sought after.”

But with many farmers losing oysters, the DPI encourage them to use the oyster theft reporting form on DPI website, to assist Officers and NSW Police to fully investigate the incidents.

 

By John SAHYOUN

 

Dean Cole said there is always a big demand for local oysters.
Dean Cole said there is always a big demand for local oysters.

 

Dean Cole is third generation in the oyster industry.
Dean Cole is third generation in the oyster industry.

 

Family Business: Stephen and Brock Cole at Cole Bros Oysters.
Family Business: Stephen and Brock Cole at Cole Bros Oysters.

 

Stephen Cole has been involved in the oyster industry all his life.
Stephen Cole has been involved in the oyster industry all his life.

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