Oyster shortage and high prices loom for 2018

IN STOCK: Chris Hank shows some of the oysters still in stock at Pure Coffin Bay Oysters.
IN STOCK: Chris Hank shows some of the oysters still in stock at Pure Coffin Bay Oysters.

Oyster growers are asking patrons to be patient going into the summer and holiday period while the industry prepares for stock shortages in 2018.

Local oyster growers have been managing their stocks due to a lack of oyster spat from Tasmania because of an outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS).

Boylan Oysters owner James Boylan from Smoky Bay said all growers had experienced a lack of spat and this would drive prices higher going into the holiday period.

“Numbers will well and truly be on the decline from recent years,” he said.

“There will be a real shortage come Christmas and into next year, which will be a dramatic change from what we have had in the past few years.

“Across the state we will see higher prices.”

South Australian Oyster Growers Association executive officer Trudy McGowan said prices had been going up for oysters and that would continue going into the summer and Christmas period.

Two new hatcheries have been set up in addition to the existing ones at Kellidie Bay and Louth Bay.

One at Boston Bay developed in partnership with SAM Abalone is already producing spat while another with Eyre Shellfish at Cowell will open later this month.

Ms McGowan said this would help with oyster production in the future but growers would still face a shortage throughout 2018 because oysters from spat to sale could take 12 to 18 months to develop.

She said however growers were trying to meet demand for the coming months.

“Growers are doing their very best to ensure they can meet that demand during Christmas,” she said.

Ms McGowan said a short term shortage would lead to long term security thanks to the new hatcheries which would also create more jobs.

“We can be more self sufficient and ensure it won’t happen again,” she said.

Mr Boylan said he expected oyster production would get back on track for 2019.

“I think it will get worse before it gets better so there will be a bigger shortage next Christmas as the spat which has come in won’t be mature enough,” he said.

“Most of the spat came from Tasmania, now we need to get 100 per cent of the spat from inside the state.

“However, we have come a long way in a short time and the new hatchery at Cowell will play a big part – once it gets into full swing it can produce 200 million oysters.”

Pure Coffin Bay Oysters owner Chris Hank said while waiting for spat to mature he was expanding the tourism side of the business by expanding the shed tours to include trips to the oyster leases so people could try oysters straight from the water.

He said Pure Coffin Bay Oysters would also ensure there was always stock available at its ‘Shellar Door’ at Coffin Bay.