Port Stephens oyster growers will showcase some of their finest work among a range of local seafood at the Love Sea Food Weekend Festival in Nelson Bay on Saturday and Sunday.
Third-generation oyster grower Matt Burgoyne has this week been busy preparing his product for the festival, which is expected to draw about 20,000 people to d'Albora Marina.
Come and sample some Sydney Rock Oysters that are grown here in Port Stephens.- Oyster grower Matt Burgoyne
Mr Burgoyne showed the Newcastle Herald around Tilligerry Creek earlier this week, where millions of oysters are grown and sorted by local operators each year.
“Port Stephens has, I believe, about 40 oyster farmers in various sizes of businesses,” Mr Burgoyne said.
“It has always been a strong growing region; oysters were being produced here in the early 1900s.
“It saw a little bit of a decline, but oystering is picking up and were seeing some new farmers coming on board and starting to get back to the production we used to do.”
XL Oysters – owned by the Burgoyne family, who have been growing for 60 years – has about six million oysters growing in its Port Stephens leases at any one time.
The company has 35 hectares of cultivating lease near North Arm Cove, Tea Gardens and in Tilligerry Creek.
When selling, the business sends “about 5000 to 6000 dozen” oysters across Australia each week.
“It takes anywhere between two-and-a-half years to three years to grow an oyster,” Mr Burgoyne said.
“We get them from match-head size and take them right through to a big fat oyster that you see on a dinner plate.”
The reputation of Port Stephens oysters has helped the Burgoyne family build domestic sale markets as far away as Western Australia.
“Port Stephens sits probably just under Wallis Lakes, at Forster, in [terms of] production [quantity],” he said. “It’s one of the largest oyster producing regions in NSW.
“We sell to wholesalers and into restaurants. It was traditionally into Sydney but is now Australia-wide.”
The weekend festival will celebrate the region’s complete range of seafood, which includes prawns, lobsters, an abundance of fresh fish, and blue swimmer and mud crabs.
There will be live cooking demonstrations, oyster shucking, fish-filleting and kids entertainment.
The festivities take place from 11am-5pm on Saturday and 10am-2pm on Sunday.
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