What a good story the Eyre Shellfish Hatchery is. After the disaster of the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome in Tasmanian oysters, the state government banned all spat from being imported from Tasmania. For the oyster growers of SA this was the start of a drought and the crippling of an industry.
Eyre Peninsula produces about 50 per cent of Australia’s oysters and Cowell produces about 50 per cent of EP’s oysters. With the inability to get spat, the oyster industry is winding down as stocks run out. When you drive past the oyster yards you will see the oyster bags stacked in their thousands. In Cowell, 70 people work on leases and a lot of these have been laid off.
Almost two years ago, Shellfish Culture of Tasmania looked for a site to set up a hatchery. After talks with the council, we asked ‘what would it take to set up a hatchery at Cowell?’. The answer, $1 million of local money.
The Franklin Harbour District Council voted to guarantee $1 million. Further money raised by oyster growers and local people, with council pushing government departments and stressing the dire situation with the oyster industry, all of the government departments gave clearance for the go ahead in record time.
From that first day to the opening, less than 15 months has elapsed. Some weeks ago they had their first spawning and 50 million spats were hoped for, but they had 500 million.
These have been culled to 30 million and will go out to the growers at the end of November, the second and third spawning are following some six weeks apart. Once all the oyster leases on EP have been re-stocked it is hoped to export spats around the world, and especially to Japan.
It is a credit to Eyre Shellfish that this state of the art facility was built in such short time – employing 10 full time staff. It turned out that council did not need to put any money in from the guarantee, as Eyre Shellfish was fully subscribed by growers and investors. The cost finished was close to $4 million.
We are proud of our local contractors who have helped with the wide range of construction activities – from earthworks to electrical. We welcome the staff that have been employed on the project who have now settled in the town, kids going to the school and making a valuable contribution to the community.
Robert Starr, Franklin Harbour mayor