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New inlet oyster trial starts

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Jonathan Bilton works with oyster spat.
Jonathan Bilton works with oyster spat.
Photo: Denmark Bulletin

A trial using oyster spats from an Albany Hatchery is assessing if the water conditions of Wilson Inlet will support the growth of native flat oysters.

Aquaculturist Zak Launay said conditions created with the ‘exceptional opening’ of Wilson Inlet last year had created a level of salinity suited to the growing of oysters.

In recent years salinity levels had dropped to one third of the level suitable for growing oysters.

Last year the Wilson Inlet sandbar was opened in June when the water level due to storms had reached 1.5m AHD and since then the sandbar has remained open to the sea.

“It (salinity levels) still would be on the lower end of what an eastern opening would achieve,” Zak said.

“That’s the one described by first white explorers. “The trialled oysters are native to Wilson Inlet which disappeared from the inlet in the 1930s.

Zak Launay sets up oyster baskets in Wilson Inlet.
Zak Launay sets up oyster baskets in Wilson Inlet.
Photo: Denmark Bulletin

“This was following the first western opening when Prawn Rock Channel was created, and the concept of west and east openings emerged,” Zak said.

The native flat oyster used to be abundant in Wilson Inlet until it disappeared, but is still found in surrounding estuaries.

An official survey found four oysters in the inlet in 2010 after a progressive drop in salinity level.

Oysters are grown commercially in Albany where 800ha of farming are set for development with Albany targeted as a world leader in oyster farming.

Albany Hatchery director Johnathan Bilton is assisting in the trial which Zak said would progress bit by bit.

Mr Launay said Wilson Inlet had enormous potential for aquaculture.

The first stage of the trial would see how fast the oysters in Wilson inlet grew compared with Albany.

A previous trial of the mussels grown in the inlet found these grew faster than in Albany.

Zak grew mussels commercially in Wilson Inlet between 2005-2007 but these disappeared by 2010.

The Australian native oyster, Ostrea angasi, is similar to the European or Beleon flat oyster, named after a town in Zak’s home region, Brittany in France.

It is called Beleon in the restaurant trade.

“It’s a bit like Bordeaux wine would be cabernet sauvignon but not allowed to be called Bordeaux because it’s not grown in … Bordeaux”.

Denmark Bulletin 16 June 2022

The article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 16 June 2022.

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