Stock Thefts Devastate Queensland Oyster Growers

Tuesday 9 January 2024:

In what is being described as a “well planned” and “highly executed” heist, a number of Stradbroke Island oyster growers have been robbed of their livelihood with over 12,000 oysters being stolen under the cover of darkness.

For the second year in a row callous thieves have not only stolen oysters, but the livelihoods of the dedicated growers who often have to wait three years before they can reap the rewards of their efforts.

President of the Queensland Oyster Growers Association (QOGA), chair of the Queensland Oyster Industry Network (QOIN) and owner operator of Kooringal Oysters on Moreton Island, Professor Andrew James Robson said, “these thefts have devasted our community at a time when many growers saw light at the end of the tunnel following large stock losses from QX disease and reduced sales during COVID.”

“The high quality of the oysters, complemented by very high market prices meant that this harvest would have seen growers be in a position to start the recovery process and have the funds to reinvest in stock and infrastructure.

“Sadly, they are once again having to start over. The impact of these thefts on the growers and their families cannot be underestimated, Mr Robson said.

Mr Robson wants to raise awareness in the public that the removal of oysters from a commercial lease without permission is a crime under Section 87 of the Fisheries Act 1994 with a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units (1 penalty unit is $154.80). A fisheries infringement notice (on the spot fine) may also be issued for offences under section 87 with a penalty of 10 penalty units ($1548).

“The Queensland oyster industry is experiencing strong growth and incidences like these undermine our ability to provide Queenslanders with locally produced seafood, but we need the help of the public to put a stop to this criminal behaviour”, Mr Robson said.

“You can’t just harvest and store 1,000 dozen oysters on a dinghy. This was a well planned and highly executed robbery and the fact that it has happened for the second year in a row is extremely concerning.

If you see any unusual activity on commercial oyster leases such as non- commercial looking boats and jet skis removing oyster bags, or you notice oysters suddenly for sale from unusual retailers at reduced prices contact the police on 131 444 or crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.