The history of oyster farming in Australia
Non Technical Summary
Aboriginal Australians consumed oysters for thousand of years before European settlement as indicated by the large number of kitchen middens remaining along Australia's coast. Oyster farming is the oldest aquaculture industry in Australia commencing in the late 1800's. It commenced with the exploitation of dredge beds, both for the use of oyster shell for lime production and oyster meat consumption. These natural oyster beds were nearly all exhausted by the turn of the 19th century and have not recovered. Early attempts at flat oyster Ostrea angasi farming in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia were abandoned. However, a thriving Sydney rock oyster Saccostrea glomerata industry developed from primitive beginnings in NSW.
Sydney rock oysters are farmed in NSW, southern Queensland and at Albany, WA. Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas are produced in Tasmania, South Australia and Port Stephens, NSW. Flat oysters are currently only farmed in NSW and there is also some small-scale production of tropical oysters in northern Queensland. Despite intra- and interstate differences, oyster farmers are gradually realizing that they are all part of one industry, and this is reflected by the establishment of the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program and the transfer of farming technology from one state to others.
Production of oysters in Australia has remained relatively stable since the production of Sydney rock oysters peaked in the mid 1970's at 13 million dozen. Production of Sydney rock oysters had stabilized at around 8 million dozen at the end of the 1990's and that of Pacific oysters reached a total of 6.5 million dozen from Tasmania, South Australia and Port Stephens, a total of 14.5 million dozen. This small increase in production over a time of substantial human population growth suggests a declining share of the 'entree' market by oysters.