GREENWELL Point oyster farmer Jim Wild has lost up to 25 per cent of his crop in the recent record hot weather.
As the temperatures soared in early January, Mr Wild estimated he had lost between 2500 and 3000 dozen oysters valued at between $15,000 and $20,000.
And as the area rejoices in the rain over the weekend, that has caused another headache for the former world champion opener and his fellow oyster farmers with the Food Authority closing the Shoalhaven River to harvesting after it received more than 100mm of rain.
“It’s been a bit of a double whammy,” said Mr Wild, whose shed is located right on the Shoalhaven River at the Oyster Farm Development Site.
“First we lose oysters due to the heat and now the river is closed because it has received too much fresh water.”
The drama started on Tuesday, January 8 when the Shoalhaven was in the grip of a heatwave and bushfire emergency.
“As temperatures soared past 40 the tide was out and the oyster leases located in front of Goodnight Island were exposed and copped the whole impact of the heat,” he said.
“People were saying it was 43 or 44 here on that day and a quarter of the crop was devastated.
“It’s like they just cooked in their shells.”
Mr Wild said it was lucky when the area hit a new record 45.4 the following Friday that the tide was in and he suffered no losses.
“It could have been much worse. We could have lost up to 5000 dozen, but still up to 3000 dozen is a pretty significant loss.
“It’s just part of nature – it levels a lot of us out.”
As far as he knows he is the only local oyster farmer to lose stock.
More than 100mm falling at Greenwell Point has forced the Food Authority to close the Shoalhaven River.
“We are only allowed between 25 and 50mm before the authority can close the river to harvesting,” he said.
“When this sort of thing happens we are usually closed for around eight or nine days and I’d say it will be the same again now.
“When it looks like we are going to get significant rain in harvest time we try to remove around eight or nine days worth of oysters so we can keep selling normally.”
Mr Wild said it could still be a couple of days before the full extent of the fresh water hits the lower reaches of the river.
“We are hearing the dam levels were low prior to the rain, so hopefully the authorities won’t let any water go, maybe just let it spill over the top. That is far better than letting the stagnant de-oxygenated water from the bottom of the dam out.
“All that does is kill everything on its way down, it’s not just bad for oyster growers but also for all the young developing fish and prawns.