Working to improve the Tweed River the North Coast Local Land Services and OceanWatch Australia have joined with Tweed River oyster farmers to develop and launch an industry-led Environmental Management System (EMS). Setting out a framework for ensuring a vibrant and environmentally sustainable future for the local oyster industry in the Terranora Lakes Estuary (Tweed River).
‘Interestingly, of the various findings which emerged from the completion of the EMS, was the concern that oyster leases are still widely perceived to be unsightly due to the obvious visual prevalence of aquaculture infrastructure in these intertidal areas’ said Jai Sleeman, Senior Lands Services Officer with North Coast Local Land Services.
An increase of education and awareness raising combined with a range of improvements in oyster faming and infrastructure will assist in improving understanding of the river and improving the estuarine environment.
‘The historical decline of oyster farming operations throughout New South Wales and the visual impact of derelict oyster lease sites in some estuaries that are in varying stages of disrepair has no doubt contributed to, poor understanding of the oyster industry,’ said Mr Sleeman.
North Coast Local Land Services has helped fund rehabilitation and clean-up of these abandoned oyster leases in this project partnership with OceanWatch Australia and NSW Department of Primary Industries, particularly in high conservation value estuaries which serve as important habitat – nursery, feeding and breeding grounds for fisheries.
The Terranora Lakes Oyster Farmers EMS is an industry backed plan for oyster farmers to showcase their farming practices and identify internal and external risks to the ongoing viability of the industry. The EMS promotes a commitment to environmental sustainability and provides an opportunity for oyster farmers to engage with other key stakeholders which operate within the broader landscape and water catchment area and can affect the management of oyster aquaculture in these estuaries. Most importantly the EMS helps oyster farmers to prioritise and manage for risks within their domain of influence, in the pursuit of continual improvement.
Local Oyster farmer Rob Eyre who also manages a successful eco-tourism business called Catch-A-Crab described the EMS as ‘a great opportunity for bringing oyster farmers together on a united front and ‘another vehicle to help educate the community about the importance of a healthy and productive estuarine environment.’