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Tweed oyster farmers committed to sustainable aquaculture

North Coast Local Land Services has supported OceanWatch Australia to work with Tweed River oyster farmers to develop and launch an industry led Environmental Management System (EMS) – a document which outlines a framework for ensuring a vibrant and environmentally sustainable future for the local oyster industry in the Terranora Lakes Estuary.

The Terranora Lakes (Tweed River) Oyster Farmers EMS is essentially an industry backed plan for oyster farmers to showcase their farming practices and identify internal and external risks to the ongoing viability of the industry.

The EMS promotes a commitment to environmental sustainability and provides an opportunity for oyster farmers to engage with other key stakeholders which operate within the broader landscape and water catchment area and can affect the management of oyster aquaculture in these estuaries.

Most importantly, the EMS helps oyster farmers to prioritise and manage for risks within their domain of influence, in the pursuit of continual improvement.

Local Oyster farmer Rob Eyre, who also manages a successful eco-tourism business called Catch-A-Crab said, “The EMS is a great opportunity for bringing oyster farmers together on a united front and was another vehicle to help educate the community about the importance of a healthy and productive estuarine environment.

“Being involved in the EMS process was also a great opportunity to understand what actions we can adopt personally for improving oyster leases and how we can better interface with council and other industries to address some of the potential risks posed by contamination and sedimentation.”

Jai Sleeman, Senior Lands Services Officer with North Coast Local Land Services said, “Interestingly, of the various findings which emerged from the completion of the EMS, was the concern that oyster leases are still widely perceived to be unsightly due to the obvious visual prevalence of aquaculture infrastructure in these intertidal areas.

“This perception reflects that the industry is likely to be poorly understood by other estuary users within the community and will likely be the focus of future education and awareness raising programs.

“The historical decline of oyster farming operations throughout New South Wales and the visual impact of derelict oyster lease sites in some estuaries that are in varying stages of disrepair has no doubt contributed to these perceptions.” Jai said.

North Coast Local Land Services has helped fund rehabilitation and clean-up of these abandoned oyster leases in this project partnership with OceanWatch Australia and NSW Department of Primary Industries, particularly in high conservation value estuaries which serve as important habitat – nursery, feeding and breeding grounds for fisheries.

North Coast Local Land Services is also contributing funding from the National Landcare Programme towards helping Tweed oyster growers to remove old infrastructure and replace/upgrade these with non-degradable plastic products which will help improve the visual amenity and prevent further contamination from old tar treated material.

These activities were identified as immediate priorities for implementation through the Tweed Oyster Farmer EMS and improvements relating to these upgrades will ultimately help protect the estuarine environment and save growers time and money.

If you would like more information about the Terranora lakes (Tweed River) Oyster Farmers Environmental Management System and associated project activities please contact Jai Sleeman at North Coast Local Land Services on 6623 3917.

Photo caption:

Local Tweed oyster farmers signing their commitment to the Environmental Management System.

Media contact:

Jai Sleeman, Senior Land Services Officer, North Coast Local Land Services Phone 02 6623 3917