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Oyster farmers in Australia expand into tourism, offer in-water dining experience to keep industry alive

HAWKESBURY RIVER, New South Wales: Oyster farmers in the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales have expanded into tourism to keep their industry alive. 

Some have started a quirky in-water dining experience, where patrons enjoy freshly-harvested oysters that are shucked while they are standing knee-deep in the river. 

Oyster farmer Sheridan Beaumont, founder of Sydney Oyster Farm Tours, came up with the idea during the COVID-19 pandemic and now serves her produce in the Hawkesbury River.

AN UNUSUAL DINING EXPERIENCE

“Basically when social distancing measures came into place, I wasn’t able to run a viable tour because I was only allowed to have maybe two people on my boat,” she said. 

“And so I thought, why don’t I just pop them in the water and socially distance them that way.”

Her customers have to don chest-high waders to get to their table. But it becomes a fun and unique gastronomic experience in the water, as they open their oysters and sip champagne while enjoying wide-open views of the river. 

“I’m a big oyster fan and eating them right where they are grown is pretty magical,” said one customer. 

Another patron said: “We’re in one of the most beautiful places we could possibly be in and they’re super fresh.”

Oysters filter the water naturally, making the environment much cleaner for marine life by removing excess nutrients and other pollutants. 

“They are the kidneys of the river,” said Ms Beaumont. “So they are actually constantly cleaning the waterway and removing any kind of contaminant.”

PROMOTING SUSTAINABILITY

However, oyster farming is not a simple process, said fellow oyster farmer Jason Barry-Cotter. 

“You’ve got hot weather, you’ve got floods, you’ve got worms and viruses,” he added. “It means washing the mud down.”

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