OYSTER farmers in Shoalhaven have joined forces to prepare an Environmental Management System designed to protect the river and, in turn, their industry.
The voluntary document will identify environmental risks to oyster farms and the wider catchment that could impact on the estuary and oyster production.
The group received grants from Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Ocean Watch in December to remove old tar-based oyster-growing infrastructure and fence and protect endangered wetland vegetation at their farm gate in Greenwell Point.
Southern Rivers CMA chair Pam Green said a further $440,000 had been secured through the Caring for our Country initiative to employ oyster industry extension officers and undertake projects that reduce environmental risks in oyster growing areas.
“This funding will assist growers on the South Coast to pool their knowledge and implement their EMS to improve the health of the estuary and increase business viability,” Mrs Green said.
Shoalhaven River Oysters co-ordinator Lyn Desoto said there was huge benefit in removing old-fashioned tarred sticks and trays that were still used to grow oysters in some areas.
“Water quality is improved by removing toxic chemicals that can leach into the estuary,” Ms Desoto said.
“Using plastic floating baskets instead helps seagrass to recover, improving aquatic habitat and visual amenity of oyster lease areas,” she said.
Individual grants of up to $8000 are available for growers to make environmental improvements on their oyster farm, shed and lease areas.
Landholders, natural resource management groups and people in any farming industry can also apply for up to $25,000 for works to improve water quality and native vegetation in oyster-growing catchments.
Eligible projects include fencing and revegetating river and creek banks, inter-tidal areas and wildlife corridors; erosion control works; off-stream stock watering facilities; effluent reduction; and education and awareness raising activities.
The group is planning to release a draft of its EMS later this month.