Saturday, 16 December 2017

Our View (5-9-2017): YP’s shellfish reef

BEFORE European colonisation, Yorke Peninsula’s coastline was lined with oyster reefs, providing an ideal environment for fish to thrive.

It didn’t take the early settlers long to change that.

Oysters proved to be an easy food source for the desperate local population, and the shells were also scraped off the reef and used to produce building materials.

It wasn’t only YP. All throughout Australia shellfish reefs were decimated as oysters proved to be low-hanging fruit. Ninety-nine per cent of Australia’s shellfish reefs were destroyed, leaving just one, in Tasmania.

When the YP Country Times learned a reef was being built somewhere in South Australia to reproduce what once was, we pushed for a location in our area. We were glad a spot on YP’s east coast was chosen, particularly given the impact of other changes which had impacted fishing.

The project does carry a small amount of risk. Pacific Oyster Mortality Disease has ravaged oyster populations elsewhere in Australia, severely impacting the industry. Every effort must be made to ensure the disease is kept well away when the YP shellfish reef is seeded with juvenile oysters later this year.

Those involved with the YP reef project are experienced and committed to a positive outcome. So local oyster farmers are right to acknowledge the slight disease risk, but have been assured the people implementing the project don’t want to introduce disease either and will do everything possible to avoid it happening.

It is heartening to see the community’s support for the reef project and more opportunities for locals to get involved are on the horizon.

It will take a while for the benefits of this four-hectare reef, and the planned 20ha expansion, to really show.

In the meantime, let’s abide by the rules – no dropping anchor and no commercial fishing allowed, at least not on the current four hectares – so the reef can live up to its huge potential.

Nick Perry, Editor
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