Oyster Information Portal


Ensuring that the Australian Oyster Industry adapts to a changing climate: a natural resource and industry spatial information portal for knowledge action and informed adaptation frameworks 

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  • Organisation: Shoalhaven Marine and Freshwater Centre, University of Wollongong, Shoalhaven Campus, Nowra
  • Researchers: Andrew Davis, Pia Winberg, Ana Rubio, Robin Warner; Lisa Kirkendale
  • Funding: Fisheries Research and Development Corporation & Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Northern Rivers/Southern Rivers CMA and Bega Valley Shire Council
  • Research contact: anarubio.zuazo@gmail.com mob. 0427 285999 (Ana)

Oyster Information Portal overview: PDF version

See more information on our website: www.oysterinformationportal.net.au

Project Overview: 

The oyster industry recognises that its success is interwoven with the environment including the delivery of productive, healthy waters from the catchment and ocean. As such the industry is vulnerable to catchment impacts and changes in the ocean dues to climate change. During the last decades, the oyster industry has been competing with increasing activity in the coastal catchment areas for space on land and in water, and has suffered from decreasing water quality and increasing extent of disease outbreaks. In addition, the threat of climate change introduces potential changes to temperature, salinity, run-off of nutrients and changes to productivity, as well as changes to the incidence of disease or harmful algae. Although farmers are aware of the relationship between the environment and oyster lease productivity, the links still need to be better understood and monitored to manage risks and ensure the survival of one of Australia’s most sustainable and high profile seafood industries.

The oyster industry has already contributed towards the identification of the key climate change related challenges that will lie ahead. These challenges were recently summarised in “Climate change adaptation in the Australian edible oyster industry: an analysis of policy and practice”. A key priority identified by the industry is access to consolidated environmental monitoring data and to relate it to industry operations historically and into the future. It is envisaged that such consolidated and spatially presented information can be effectively delivered through a web-based portal. This would allow farmers access this information and interpret it with relevance to their own lease productivity, operations and closure events. In addition, the governance of the industry will be able to make better informed decisions for adaptation and to facilitate the long term viability of the industry.

Project development:

Researchers at the University of Wollongong Shoalhaven Marine & Freshwater Centre will work directly with oyster industry members, Catchment Management Authorities, State Government agencies and Councils towards a proof of concept portal for a minimum of four oyster growing estuaries in NSW. It is envisaged that a data portal concept that delivers most value to industry can then be more effectively expanded to other lease areas and states. Therefore the engagement of industry will be central to this project.

Over the next 2 years, a series of workshops will be held with members of the oyster industry for a two-way development of the portal concept. Currently we are seeking interested oyster growers who would be willing to be part of the project. However at the pilot stage only a limited number of areas can be included and selection of lease areas to consider will be decided based on the interest from industry and funding partner preferences. Of particular relevance to industry involvement is the opportunity to develop an oyster performance monitoring program linked to estuarine and catchment data. Together with the portal concept, such performance data has the potential benefit of improving the industry understanding of when, where and at what densities specific leases might perform best.

Oyster monitoring program:

Oyster performance or productivity data is scarce and is one of the reasons that it has been difficult to determine conditions for optimum growth and minimum mortality within and across leases and estuaries. By monitoring batches of oysters through parts of the life cycle every year, important information can be provided towards:

  • Standardised and simple annual assessment of oyster performance and mortalities
  • Assessment of oyster performance over time
  • Differences in oyster performance between leases or estuaries
  • Identification of environmental conditions and/or stressors during  mortality events
  • Linking optimised growth to environmental conditions

The monitoring program would require minimum additional work for the oyster industry, and be integrated with current routine lease management practices. Based on industry interest, additional parameters such as health (i.e. mudworm infestation) or condition levels could be monitored.  Farms with automated oyster graders would provide for the most effective assessment of environmental effects on oyster performance (see ‘Using an automated oyster grading machine for long-term monitoring of oyster performance’ by A. Rubio, pdf version).

Oyster performance monitoring requirements:

  • 1 or 2 cohorts (same batch supply) of different oysters size classes (i.e juvenile and/or adult)
  • 1,000 oysters/ cohort (fewer oysters if no oyster grader is available)
  • 18 months
  • Oysters will be assessed for mortalities and growth 4 times per year during grading
  • Consistent cultivation methods (ie. trays, floating bags) and densities

Please contact researchers at the Shoalhaven Marine & Freshwater Centre for further information, or watch oyster news networks for dates of upcoming workshops.

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Last reviewed: 21 January, 2013