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Innovative partnership tackles marine pest

Pacific Oyster control programs have helped improve the long-term sustainability of the Sydney Rock Oyster industry on the NSW South Coast. The Clyde River is the third most important oyster growing estuary in the region and is a nationally important wetland. Together with the Tomaga River these estuaries are extremely sensitive coastal systems and the brackish and sheltered waters that typify them represent the preferred habitat for Class 1 and 2 noxious marine pests.

The ‘Seachange-Aboriginal marine pathways to social inclusion’ project aims reduce the input of exotic seaweeds and diseases which are known to be harmful to Sydney Rock Oysters. European Green Shore Crab control will reduce the potentially large impact on NSW oyster industries through return of native species and reduced predation on juvenile oysters.

The project extends the initial partnership developed during 2007-2010 between Clyde River oyster farmers and Batemans Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) to conduct marine pest control programs. This new initiative includes the Mogo LALC and combines marine pest control work with a cultural marine survey. The project will employ an oyster farmer who will work with indigenous rangers and volunteers to systematically trap and remove Pacific Oysters and Green Shore Crabs at identified locations at the Clyde River and the Tomaga River. The two indigenous land Councils will engage with each other to form a cross koori work crew. They will network between communities, plan projects and share work opportunities for indigenous rangers. The Marine Parks Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) and University researchers will provide training and volunteer working bee days for oyster growers, indigenous rangers and members of the Nature Coast Marine Group.

Indigenous rangers will be trained to conduct a marine survey documenting the cultural significance and biodiversity of their local coastal environment. The incorporation of cultural information and ecological data into one survey and database is highly unique and demonstrates the strong interrelations between the cultural and ecological dimensions of the marine environment. The significance of indigenous engagement with the land and sea for their livelihood, and future management of the Marine Park will be highlighted. The social understanding developed between oyster farmers and the local aboriginal community will be re-ignited and provide a cooperative appreciation of their connection to estuaries and the surrounding lands.

The adoption of improved aquaculture practices by oyster farmers in the Clyde River estuary through the removal of Pacific Oysters aims to improve the health of 8ha of the priority oyster producing estuary. It will remove a significant threat to the local aquaculture industry, by avoiding habitat modification and removing the competition with other native species for food and habitat resources. Training in identification and control of Pacific Oysters and European Green Shore Crabs will add to adoption of sustainable practice change for the local oyster industry. Growers in the Clyde River estuary will be encouraged to form more cohesive groups and actively participate in driving estuary priorities and rehabilitation. It will also demonstrate to industry the commitment of agencies to work together and address threats which have significant economic repercussions on oyster growers and indigenous community livelihoods.

Andrew Kirkley
Senior Land Services Officer, NRM