The NSW oyster industry has shared its knowledge of natural oyster reefs and pledged its support to help restore the marine ecosystem.
Results of a major industry survey were unveiled at the NSW Oyster Conference held at Club Forster earlier this week.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) presented the survey results to the 270 delegates attending the conference, who travelled from throughout the State, the Northern Territory and New Zealand.
"The once significant role of oyster reefs in filtering water, protecting shorelines and supporting productive estuaries has been largely lost due to a combination of historical over harvest, catchment impacts and disease,"DPI senior fisheries manager, Kylie Russell said.
"Most of the loss occurred more than 150 years ago, so community awareness about our oyster reefs is very low.
"From January to June the DPI invited NSW oyster farmers to be part of a survey which canvassed their knowledge of natural reefs and views on oyster reef restoration.
"Through their extensive understanding of the estuaries they work in, oyster farmers across the State have provided a wealth of information to help identify remaining oyster reef locations.
"This information is a key component in planning for future restoration opportunities.
"The oyster industry is an important stakeholder for the NSW Oyster Reef Restoration Project - the first large-scale pilot project for the State and a key action funded under the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy."
The once significant role of oyster reefs in filtering water, protecting shorelines and supporting productive estuaries has been largely lost due to a combination of historical over harvest, catchment impacts and disease.Kylie Russell
The survey also provided information to understand industry concerns and to draw-on farmers' expertise to improve the practicalities of future restoration efforts.
"The response rate to the survey was outstanding with nearly 100 farmers, representing 30/32 oyster production estuaries participating, and we're very thankful to them for this enthusiastic response," Ms Russell said.
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Farmers have assisted with identifying and describing 102 oyster reefs across the State and have shown strong support for the project overall.
The survey revealed 97 per cent of participants offered further assistance to the team to locate reefs:
- 81pc revealed a keen interest to learn more about oyster reef restoration and
- 71pc expressed a willingness to participate in future restoration projects.
The survey results will help inform DPI and other reef restoration partners about where to direct future efforts, how best to continue collaborating with farmers and incorporate any industry-specific concerns in future planning decisions.
Restoring oyster reefs contributes to the vision of the NSW marine estate: a healthy coast and sea, managed for the greatest wellbeing of the community, now and into the future.
Further information on the oyster reef restoration project can be found on the NSW marine estate page here.
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