South Australian oyster growers are starting to see the light at the end of the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) tunnel, but for some regions it will take a little longer to get there.
Oyster growers, researchers and industry personnel were in Streaky Bay this week for the South Australian Oyster Industry 2019 Seminar.
Presenters spoke about the latest in research and development, and updates on POMS management as the South Australian industry continues to deal with the fallout of the 2016 Tasmanian POMS outbreak.
Topics including living and farming with POMS, climate change impacts on oysters, breeding programs and a hatchery update were covered during the seminar, which attracted about 100 participants from across Eyre Peninsula, the state, and beyond.
South Australian Oyster Growers Association (SAOGA) chairperson Rob Kerin said the seminar presented useful information for growers.
"The sessions went well, there were good speeches and a good program put together," he said.
"It has been very informative for people in the industry."
Mr Kerin said it was hard to give an overall outlook for how the industry was fairing, with growers in some regions at a more advanced stage of recovery than others.
He said while it had been a tough few years for the industry, they were starting to see the upturn from the worst of the POMS impact, with new South Australian hatcheries at Cowell assisting the process.
"A variation in environmental conditions, mortality, spat availability, and a range of issues beyond growers' control reflects what stage of recovery individual businesses are at," he said.
"The new hatcheries have had an enormous impact and things have improved - it took a while to calibrate, but the investment is greatly appreciated and we'd be running at 20 per cent of our output without it.
"It's an ongoing recovery but production is up, and alongside that runs the breeding of POMS-resistant oysters so if it does arrive we'll be ready."
Mr Kerin said they hoped the worst was behind the industry.
It has been difficult 12 months for Smoky Bay growers and James Boylan of Boylan Oysters said that was expected to continue.
He said his current output was at about 50 per cent of pre-POMS production, while some Smoky Bay growers were producing even less.
"The juvenile oysters are not where we want to be and we are experiencing a shortage of young oysters," he said.
"Once our bigger oysters are sold before Christmas there will be fewer oysters next year than this year for oyster distributors.
"We are not out of the woods yet, but with some luck we can move forward."
Despite recent issues, he said the Smoky Bay industry was continuing to develop.
"It's a great industry that has only been going for 30 years and can still grow to reach its full potential."
Mr Boylan said the seminar was important to network with growers from other regions and discuss with them any issues that they may be able to help with.
"There are things other growers can help you out with, maybe it's an issue they have already faced," he said.
"Networking is paramount, along with speakers bringing us up to speed on the industry latest."
Simon Turner of Turner's Oyster Farm at Cowell said he had seen an improvement in numbers over the past year.
"We are starting to see relatively good numbers on the farm and feel a bit more relaxed," he said.
"We were at 50 per cent of our normal production this time last year, but now we are on the up and are doing about 75 to 80 per cent of previous numbers.
"We hope to be where we once were in the next two years, but POMS and other diseases are always lurking."
Mr Turner is also a director at Cowell hatchery Eyre Shellfish and said while there had been some issues at the start of operations, they were starting to see results.
Gary Hetzel from Hetzel Oysters at Coffin Bay said the situation had also improved in that region and he expected more improvement over the next 12 months.
"We all have numbers and it is better than what we had last year, although they are still quite young and it has been slow in getting the condition up," he said.
"We were selling half our usual number from the last year before POMS, but the price jumped up to help us a bit.
"It is on the way up and it should be a better end to the year with about 75 per cent of our normal production - we are finally getting size in the spat and things are on the way up."
He said while it varied from grower to grower, the general consensus at Coffin Bay was that things should improve to the end of 2020.