Free oyster leases a pearler

OYSTERS are free for the taking in the Eurobodalla’s river systems without ripping off an oyster farmer.

As Clyde River oyster leaseholders reel from a series of devastating thefts, farmers and authorities have urged anyone after a free feed to take advantage of the shire’s open harvest areas.

Any recreational fishing permit holder can harvest up to 50 oysters from crown land, such as Big Island, about 2km upstream from the Clyde River bridge.

The South Coast’s supervising fisheries officer, Mathew Richardson, said there were plenty of oysters caught on the foreshore on natural rock formations for people to harvest.

“We don’t want anyone going onto a commercial farmer’s lease and taking oysters,” he said.

“Commercial oyster leases are well defined with a series of white boundary markers and anything inside is a commercial lease where someone is trying to make a living.”

Oysters growing naturally on breakwaters in the shire’s estuaries and river systems were also up for grabs, with a permit and a 50-oyster bag limit.

The rocks at Pelican Point, on Beach Road, Batemans Bay, could also offer good pickings.

Mangroves are also home to oysters, but Mr Richardson urged harvesters to be gentle.

“Quite often you get oysters catching on mangroves and mangrove roots,” Mr Richardson said.

“You can take some of those, but be careful not to damage the mangroves or their roots.

“Mangroves provide a filtration system and an eco system.

“In amongst the mangroves, you have whelks, little crabs and, at high tide, little fish.

“Apart from being protected marine vegetation, mangroves are vital for the ecosystem.”

Clyde River oyster farmer and industry coordinator John Yiannaros this week asked foodies to take advantage of open areas, rather than “pinching a feed”.

“There is no need to commit a crime and take oysters from private leases,” he said.

Mr Richardson said oyster hunters could purchase a permit at a DPI office, online, or at many fishing, tackle and camping shops.

He said DPI officers could direct harvesters to legitimate areas.

However, he urged harvesters to keep a weather eye.

“Don’t eat oysters out of any estuary, river or lake after heavy rain,” he said.

“My rule of thumb is if you cannot see the oysters in shallow water, don’t eat them.

“It means there is a lot of suspended solids in the water.”

In the past two years, oysters farmers have lost more than $100,000 in stock and equipment. Most thefts were of mature oysters, suspected of being taken for Canberra’s illicit retail market. Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1300 333 000.

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