Port Stephens oyster farmers, Hunter Local Land Services, DPI, Oceanwatch Australia clean up Salamander Bay

Bottles, netting, construction waste, clothes and even a kitchen sink was collected from the Salamander Bay foreshore and bushland last Friday as part of a clean up by the Port’s oyster farmers.

About 20 farmers, Hunter Local Land Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Oceanwatch Australia took part in the clean up efforts, put in motion to address community concern that parts of oyster leases were being washed into the Mambo Wanda Wetlands.

“We received feedback that old oyster sticks and plastic slats from leases, infrastructure that has been washed away in storms, was found in the wetlands,” Stephen Cole from Cole Bros Oysters based in Karuah said. 

“We think it’s important to show the community that we care. We live here, too.”

Last year the Port Stephens oyster industry grew and sold more than 10 million oysters.  

With about 40 oyster farms perched on the Port’s banks, the industry generates hundreds of jobs and forms an important part of the local economy.

The industry is also reliant on a healthy and productive waterway, another reason the farmers wanted to pitch in and clean up.

“We’re out on the water most days. We get to see first-hand the impact of rubbish in the environment,” Dean Cole from Cole Bros Oysters said.

“The health of the estuary means everything to us – without a healthy waterway, we wouldn’t be here.

“This is the first time that we have collectively organised the region’s farmers to work together on a project like this. It’s great the local industry can have such a direct positive effect on the environment.”

Matt Toan from XL Oysters agreed, saying keeping the Port’s waterways clean would only benefit the area’s farmers.

The clean up crew covered the Salamander foreshore, from Wanda Headland to Corlette Point, throughout March 9.

Some walked along the foreshore, in the wetlands and bush to collect rubbish while others drove along the road. Farmers also hit the estuary by boat.

While the clean up crew recovered some old oyster lease infrastructure, they were surprised by the large amount of other rubbish they collected.

Through their efforts the farmers removed 208kg of rubbish, a haul that included some 447 bottles, hundreds of plastic fragments, 19 thongs, rope, construction items and a roll of carpet.

Participants also helped to sort, curate and count the collected rubbish. A summary of the waste was documented then submitted to the Australian Marine Debris Database, which analyses marine debris collected around the country, a program run by Tangaroa Blue Foundation.