The Tasmanian shellfish industry is based primarily on the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The Pacific oyster industry produces around 4 million dozen oysters each year, with an estimated farm gate value of $24 million. Hatchery-reared juveniles are grown in one of five hatcheries. The spat is then grown to market size on a licensed marine farm, with the majority of the product being sold live to domestic markets. The future short-term workforce needs of the oyster industry remain uncertain, and will depend greatly on the impact of POMS in the upcoming summer period.
The Tasmanian oyster industry offers a diverse range of employment options. While larger companies rely on a number of management level positions, smaller family structured businesses tend to rely more on farm-hand/labor positions. In such family business structures, management roles and responsibilities are overseen by family members.
The impact of POMS is intensified by closures resulting from Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Biotoxin creating algae have caused problems along Tasmania’s East and South East Coasts since 2012. HAB events result in extended closures of farms. The future spread and impact of POMS and the future existence of HABs within Tasmanian waters will in large dictate the short to medium term future of the Tasmanian shellfish industry. This is because the industry is heavily reliant on cash flow from sales. Cash is used to pay staff and purchase new stock. Without a cash flow (sales) staff cannot be retained. Both POMS and HABs impact sales and therefore cash-flow.
The shellfish aquaculture sector may be at the liberty of environmental change, but this also presents opportunities for entrepreneurs to find solutions for adaptation. The short term future of the Tasmanian shellfish farming industry depends on the upcoming summer season and the presence of POMs and HABs and the industry’s ability to evolve and respond to the changes in climate and presence of HABs and POMs.