A savvy and decades-long investment in aquaculture may create an oyster revolution with family breeding achieving a new high water mark for Sydney Rock Oysters.
The Sydney-based Select Oyster Company is releasing a new generation of oysters that will give Sydney Rocks the edge they need in the competitive oyster market in Australia and overseas.
The new-generation oysters will be more disease resistant, be 30 per cent faster to mature, and grow more meat in the shell, the Company says.
Already, the “family lines” oyster, as it is known, is being slowly fed through to NSW oyster farmers, although supply from hatcheries appears to be an issue. NSW Farmers have been behind the family breeding program through its investment in Select Oyster Company.
“The project was first established in 1990 by DPI but results of the multi-trait family breeding program are now being realised on farms,” a NSW Farmers spokesperson said.
“The program is based around increased hatchery production and the main aim is to see Sydney Rock Oysters reach a premium quality that’s disease resistant.
“Select Oyster Company, a company run by NSW Farmers, is managing the commercialisation of the breeding program.”
Wallis Lake oyster farmer and company board member Anthony Sciacca says it is potentially one of the biggest breakthroughs for the oyster industry and it will give oysters farmers who grow family line oysters a quality edge.
It may lengthen the time growers can farm oysters by up to two months. The other benefit will be the end of “sticks” for growing oysters that “catch everything that floats past”, with the industry turning to plastic baskets and long lines.
Mr Sciacca says the other benefit will be the strength of the new family bred oyster to fight off QX disease and allow growers to be commercially viable during QX outbreaks.
“The market is such that quality is what gets you the market share. We will achieve good supply to the producer and that’s where everyone is aiming.” The change will mean Mr Sciacca will “pull up the sticks” and replace his oyster growing infrastructure with plastic baskets. “The family lines are going to be pretty beneficial to the industry in the long term.” He expects his first batch of Sydney Rock single seed oysters in the spring.
Select Oyster Company’s operations manager Emma Wilkie has been involved in the research and commercial development in the family lines and is excited at the potential of the newly developed oyster.
With input from the NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries and the CSIRO, the multi-trait full sibling pedigree program produced results quite quickly. “The reaction from farmers has been positive and from this year they will have access to the new lines.” The Company is also helping improve hatchery production techniques to help meet the expected high demand.