21 August, 2023

Rock Oyster Farming in New South Wales

Commercial production of oysters occurs in over 33 estuaries ranging from the southern border around Eden, to the Tweed River in far north NSW. In NSW alone, there are approximately 2,400 oyster leases, covering a total area of 2,900 hectares.

The Rock Oyster is the main species cultivated, accounting for around 80% of all oysters grown in NSW. However, small volumes of the introduced Pacific Oyster have been cultivated in Port Stephens since 1991 and are roughly 20% of NSW’s oyster production.

The somewhat triangular ‘cupped’ shell of the Rock Oyster is thick, smooth and fluted. It takes between two to four years for an oyster to grow to a medium (Bistro) size, about 70mm/45g, the large size (Plate) go to market at 75mm/50g. The Rock Oyster is the hardiest of Australia’s oysters. When clammed shut and kept cool but not cold (12-15°C is the optimum temperature), they can live out of water for up to 20 days.

Its shape can vary from a medium deep to a shallow cup, a reflection of its provenance. Characterised by its deep, rich and sweet flavour, the Rock Oyster has a lasting mineral flavour.

The thrill of eating a Rock Oyster is observing the nuances of texture and taste from one estuary, lake, river or creek, to the next.