Project number: 2023-070
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $100,000.00
Principal Investigator: Andrew Myers
Organisation: NSW Farmers' Association
Project start/end date: 1 Feb 2024 - 5 Dec 2024


The oyster industry have long recognised their exposure to the unpredictable nature of the environment. Considerable time, effort and resources have been invested in risk mitigation activities. Examples such as Selective Breeding Programs, Quality Assurance Programs, Environmental Management Systems and innovations in growing techniques and animal husbandry are all designed to improve the attritubes of stock and to mitigate the likelihood & severity of a disturbance. It has been identified however, that there has been minimal investment in last resort options that support growers through worst-case scenarios.

While state & federal disaster arrangements are well established to support primary producers following declared natural disasters, the same mechanisms do not exist for disease outbreaks. Attempts to establish an aquatic deed (officially known as the aquatic EADRA - Emergency Aquatic Disease Response Arangement) have so far failed, and traditional stock insurance (such as that available to cattle producers, or ranched tuna) is not readily available to oyster farmers.

This situation has escalted following the Qx outbreak in Port Stephens, NSW. Despite suffering catastophic losses, oyster farmers in this estuary have received little support, beyond fee waivers and assistance associated with flooding events in the region. In 2019, the estuary hosted ~45 oyster farming businesses with an annual GVP of well-over $10m. Almost all of these businesses are now operating part-time, and even the most productive and profitable of growers have needed to find off-farm work to supplement their income. With considerable infrastructure in the water, farmers are unable to walk away from leases, as tipping fees alone are estimated to exceed $5m.

Understandably growers around the state have been rocked by the outbreak, the associated response and lack of financial support, and as a result have been reassessing their own exposure to risk. One thing that has also become clear, is that industry needs to take charge of their own future and look at measures to support their recovery, reestablishment or dignified exit following disease incursions.

This application seeks funding support for NSW Farmers to drive this process. This will involve the development and administration of a tender and contracting process to deliver an options document exploring the advantages and drawbacks of various financial support mechanisms current available and their appropraiteness for implementation in the oyster industry. This will include the investigation of solutions that are estbalished in other states, and other agricultural sectors. It is anticipated that recommedations put forward will be broadly split into 1) mechanisms that can be implemented at the farm/enterprise level, 2) mechanisms that may be implemented at the state/sector-wide level.

The options paper will provide valuable information which may inform the actions of fishing & aquaculture sectors around the country.


1. By October 2024, obtain insights into potential financial support mechanisms, and their suitability for implementation in the NSW oyster industry.

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