Eyre Shellfish oyster hatchery officially opens in Cowell | PHOTOS

The new Eyre Shellfish hatchery in Cowell was officially opened yesterday by Member for Flinders Peter Treloar.

The 90 people who were involved in developing the hatchery were present at the opening which included shareholders, local MPs, company directors as well as local growers.

Attendees were also given a tour of the facility.

The facility has been in construction since the beginning of year, and has spat in the hatchery, nursery and raceways, with stock ready to be sold in the about four weeks.

Eyre Shellfish committee member Simon Turner said the hatchery was running as anticipated.

“We’ve currently got spat graduating through all the processes, and will be looking to start selling spat in late November to early December,” Mr Turner said.

However, the oysters will not be ready for consumers until about Christmas next year.

Mr Turner said the hatchery would not be able to meet the shortage created by the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) outbreak straight away.

“The shortage has been dramatic here, it’s really hitting home at the moment,” he said.

“We can’t supply the demand normally, but production is now well below half next year.”

The Eyre Shellfish hatchery facility is capable of producing about 200 million spat a year, however Mr Turner said it would take a few years to stock oyster farmers up again.

He said they were expecting to sell roughly 120 million spat in the next 12 months.

“It will take a few years to get the facility up to full production, as we’re still learning. It will be pedal to the metal to get it to full production,” Mr Turner said.

“It’s going to take a lot of learning, but we have got the best people that money can buy.”

Mr Turner said that the oyster shortage could see oyster prices skyrocket and were already on the increase.

He said while prices had to go up as production and availability was down, growers would try and do the right thing by consumers. 

“Growers have all the power with prices right now and could go as high as we want to, but most will want to look after the suppliers who have always been there,” he said.

Mr Turner said most of the spat would be moved around the state but it would take longer to get spat to interstate and overseas growers.

“We’re are an industry hatchery, we’re not going to just look after our Cowell farmers, not even our shareholders will get special treatment,” he said.

“It’ll take a while for us to get into places, such as New South Wales, we’ll need six months to prove that we are a clean facility.”