New South Wales (NSW) oyster farmers have rescued three million sand-sized oysters from the devastating floods that flooded northern New South Wales and Queensland from January.
Farmers on the Macleay River, New South Wales’ main river, received oysters a few days before the flood, but heavy rains can acidify the water and have a fatal effect on oysters.
Since oyster shells are made of calcium, acid can dissolve the shells and prevent baby oysters from forming shells.
The water condition was also not salty enough for oysters.
“They need salt water to survive. Small children will not survive that kind of water,” farmer Todd Graham told AAP.
Graham and another oyster farmer drove an hour to a nearby stream to keep the oysters alive, but the farmers were relieved only when they were delivered to the National Marine Science Center in Coffs Harbor, which has direct access to the ocean.
Aquaculture manager Stephen Sule, who set foot in the center, said they were capable and willing to help.
“The water became very lean and obviously we had to move the oysters out of the environment,” says Soule.
“They will get a little TLC in the next few weeks and hopefully Macleay will be able to clear up and return to the estuary.”
The oyster industry in New South Wales has been in a difficult situation for two years with severe wildfires and floods affecting water quality.
The CCP virus pandemic has added fuel to the fire by causing widespread supply chain disruption in the seafood market and leading to higher prices.
Exports of red shrimp and abalone fell by 45% between January and June 2020. This is a comparison with the 5-year average for the same period.
Graham said the current floods would take years for farmers to recover, but felt blessed with being able to save 3 million oysters.
“If we kept them in the river, we would probably have lost them all,” Graham said.