A History of Oyster Farming in Australia


A Brief Overview of the History of Oyster Farming in Australia

Examination of the contents of aboriginal middens located along the coastal regions of Australia has indicated that oysters were a substantial part of the diet of the aboriginal tribes of these regions long before European settlement of Australia.

During the early years of European settlement in Australia, native oysters were gathered by the dredging of naturally occurring oyster beds. The oysters were gathered for a two-fold purpose – the meats for consumption; and the shells for lime production. By the early 1900’s these beds had been all but exhausted, and continuation of supply unsustainable. To this day these oyster beds have not recovered.

Oyster farming was established in the 1880’s and is considered the oldest aquaculture industry in Australia.
The flat, native oyster Ostrea angasi  (do a link to oyster types) was the first species of oyster to be farmed in Tasmania; and by 1887 there were 33 oyster farms established within the State.  In 1947 the Pacific oyster,  Cassostrea gigas, (do a link to oyster types) was imported from Japan and introduced into Tasmania as a replacement for the Angasi. They were released into the ‘wild’ in both the north and south of the state.

The commencement of Pacific oyster farming occurred in the 1960’s. In the initial stages oyster spat (or seed) was collected by placing catching sticks into the water where the oysters were known to spawn. The larvae attached themselves not only to the sticks but to other larvae already attached to the sticks (referred to as over-catch), resulting in the need, at maturity, to separate the oysters from both the sticks and each other.

In the early 1970’s hatchery trials were conducted with the first commercial hatchery being opened in 1979. The benefit of the hatchery produced spat was that it produced single seed oysters, thereby making growing oysters much easier; as well as improving the certainty of the supply to farms.