Contaminant conundrum

By Caroline Henry, Chair, NSW Farmers Oyster Committee
 
Christmas is approaching and while this is historically a great time for oyster producers and sales in NSW, things are not looking as positive as they have in the past.

 
A handful of our oyster growers in Tilligerry Creek, Port Stephens, are in an unenviable position. Earlier this year, talk of contamination from RAAF Williamtown has resulted in lost business, brand damage and publicity around this issue has further eroded consumer confidence in their product. Our members are reporting that no one wants to buy oysters from Tilligerry Creek.
 
To date, our growers have resisted talking about the issue publically but last week, a compensation package was announced for fishers but oyster growers were excluded from this. We are seeking an urgent explanation from the Department of Defence.
 
In October, following the announcement of potential contamination from PFOS/PFOA derived from RAAF Williamtown, we sought full compensation for oyster growers affected.
 
We spelt out the ongoing uncertainty faced by the rest of the shellfish industry who are affected too.
The fact is there are only three or four farmers in the core affected area, Tilligerry Creek, which acts as a ‘nursery’ and services most of the farmers in Port Stephens. Those few farmers are now having to buy or build new infrastructure outside Tilligerry to be able to do business more effectively.
 
Some may move their oysters into another area completely but the growing conditions will be different. Some of the farmers in Port Stephens are still recovering from the East Coast Low and are already on Farm Household Allowance following that event. These farmers need real help to address the current uncertainty facing them following the contamination scare.
 
Oyster farmers are completely committed to clean and clear water – they need this to have a profitable business based on an environmentally sensitive product. And clean, healthy water is good for everyone – not just oyster farmers.
 
This contamination is acknowledged by Defence to be caused by a particular contaminant emanating from activities on Defence land.
 
NSW Farmers will continue to advocate on growers behalf and is seeking a meeting with the relevant Minister to discuss the difficulties our farmers are facing.

ends

Published The Land 12 November 2015

Contact: Jaimie Lovell

Phone: 1300 794 000

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