It's been a long eight months for oyster farmers on the Hastings River, who have just completed their first harvest since the once-in-a-century flood event devastated the region back in March.
Key points:Hastings River oyster farmers have completed their first harvest since the March floodsGrower David Tunstead says he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of oysters and infrastructure in the natural disasterHe says oysters have now recovered from the event and are ready to sell
Fifth-generation oyster farmer David Tunstead said producers were predicting this year to be their best yet.
"It was supposed to be our biggest year ever, but after the floods tore through here. I was lucky to have any oysters left."
Mr Tunstead said he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of oysters in the natural disaster.
"Because water came around in such a torrent, it tore everything up," he said.
"All my infrastructure, a lot of my floating bag systems got washed to shore, and a lot got washed out to sea."
Roughly 4,000 baskets — that each hold around nine dozen oysters — were swept away by floodwaters.
"Of the oysters that remained and didn't float to sea, we had about a 20 per cent mortality," he said.
"That's about $100,000 lost to sea, and around $30,000 worth of oysters dead."
Mr Tunstead said it was a similar story for his neighbours.
"The farmer next to me lost close to half a million dollars worth of produce and infrastructure," he said.
"It was an emotional and taxing event for everyone, but we're farmers; we're resilient and we always get back on our feet."
Oysters bounced back better than ever
Mr Tunstead said clear water didn't return to the Hastings River for five weeks.
"We had brown water washing down from the mountains the whole time," he said.
"It's not good [having no clear, salt water] for the oysters. It's like running a marathon with a sick stomach," he said.
"You can't touch them. You have to let them have around two weeks of good water."
Mr Tunstead said he was relieved to find his stock recovered well.
"The Hastings has a good quality oyster, and they've bounced back beautifully," he said
"They're looking awesome and tasting great."
Back to making sales
Mr Tunstead said he had been able to supply a few local seafood shops with oysters from his latest harvest.
"The fish shops are a bit slow. We're still selling some oysters, but nothing compared to the volume we were selling last year because of COVID-19 restrictions," he said.
"I've been selling a few dozen from my flatmate's garage on a Friday afternoon. It's been a fun little venture.
"It's good to get some money in the bank finally."
Mr Tunstead said he usually supplied several high-end restaurants in Sydney, but that market had been stunted due to COVID-19.
"The Sydney market is still dead. All the restaurants are still waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease further, I think," he said.
Mr Tunstead said he was looking forward to the summer holidays.
"We missed Christmas last year because we had floods in early December and then missed Easter too," he said.
"Christmas and Easter give us a little bit more of a cash boost, especially from the locals."
Mr Tunstead said he would be prepared when the orders start rolling in this Christmas.
"When everything opens, we'll be ready to go," he said.
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Posted 5 Nov 20215 Nov 2021Fri 5 Nov 2021 at 2:16amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp