Stinker’s History: Oyster industry struggling

‘Oysterman’ featuring Stan Phillips.

IT was in 2013 when I launched my book, ‘Oysterman’, in the Karuah RSL Club.

At the time the Port Stephens oyster industry was struggling to reestablish itself as the premier oyster growing waterway in the state.

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In the 1940s Port Stephens was rightfully written about as being ‘The World’s Biggest Oyster Farm’ which was a big call when you consider that oysters are grown from Norway to the waters near Morocco, France, Holland, Asia, the Americas and south to Australia and New Zealand.

In Port Stephens, up until the mid to late 1980s, Sydney Rock oysters were grown successfully from Corrie Island to Cromarty Bay, North Arm Cove to Swan Bay and Carrington to the Karuah River and Tilligerry Creek.

In 1984-5 a non-indigenous oyster entered the system.

The Pacific oyster had arrived and decisions had to be made.

Do we farm it, or do we make every effort to remove it?

Indecision led to oyster farmers going broke and losing everything.

The following years saw a slow recovery with confidence returning.

The local industry continued to bring hope when recently, in August 2021, QX disease was confirmed.

Little is known of the disease which is caused by a parasite which attacks and kills the Sydney Rock oyster.

There is no impact on human health.

Over the years that it took to write the book, I met all the oyster growers and their families.

They were the most wonderful people.

I can only hope that the oyster crisis that we are currently experiencing will soon pass and answers are found.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

Oyster Cove, the hub of the industry, in full swing in 1973.

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