Christmas tables may be without an Aussie staple this year with the supply of oysters from two of the east coast’s biggest oyster farming regions under threat.
The news comes after revelations authorities are reportedly investigating links between a “gastro-like illness” and an area known as one of the most significant producers of Sydney rock oysters.
According to The Daily Telegraph, oysters from the Wallis Lake system – located on the NSW mid-north coast near Forster and Tuncurry – are under investigation with authorities shutting down the harvest and sale of oysters from the lake since October 17.
Meanwhile, heavy rainfall and flooding has closed oyster leases along the NSW south coast, with every estuary south of Sydney unable to be harvested, just weeks out from Christmas, according to theABC.
The closed estuaries on the south coast account for almost 60 per cent of NSW’s total oyster production.
Because oysters filter the water they live in, the water quality can have a major impact so when bacteria or saltwater levels in waterways are affected, leases can be closed for harvest.
One oyster producer from Wallis Lake, who declined to be named, told The Daily Telegraph that the closure was “the worst timing” due to its proximity to Christmas.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said, “The closure will be maintained until it can be confirmed that oysters from Wallis Lake are safe.”
On the NSW south coast, Pambula oyster farmer Roy Glessing told the ABC that after 250 millimetres of rain fell in recent days, he won’t be able to harvest his oysters until the levels of saltwater in the system increase.
“It’s hard to say if we’ll be open at Christmas,” he said, adding it would largely depend on the amount of rainfall in the next few weeks.
Mr Glessing whose oysters end up in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney said the result could be a shortage over Christmas as well as a major financial blow for oyster farmers on the NSW south coast.
“A lot of the local farmers rely on that cash flow around Christmas. It’s a peak time to be selling oysters.”