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Plans to expand Andrew and Nicola Forrest Carnarvon oyster farm halted as disease takes over trial site

The West Australian
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Fortescue Metals Chairman Andrew Forrest has seen three senior figures leave his company in a week. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconFortescue Metals Chairman Andrew Forrest has seen three senior figures leave his company in a week. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Operations at a Forrest-backed oyster farm in the Gascoyne have come to a halt after a disease outbreak rendered the oysters unsellable.

Food company Harvest Road — owned by billionaires Andrew and Nicola Forrest, and one of Western Australia’s largest agriculture businesses — has been forced to remove oyster baskets from the Carnarvon Fascine farm.

The natural parasite species of Steinhausia took hold earlier this year and forced the company to reassess the future of oyster farming at the site.

A Harvest Road spokeswoman told ABC news that despite the blow to the project, the company would keep persevering. “The business responded to the detection of the disease immediately and has been working closely with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD),” she told ABC news.

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“We are committed to the long-term development of the aquaculture industry in Western Australia.” The latest outbreak is a setback for the Harvest Road Carnarvon trial — which began in 2020 and had plans to expand from a two-hectare site to 50 hectares.

In its conception, the trial first began using rock oysters and hooded oysters after it received $125,000 in state government funding in 2019.

Carnarvon Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Paul Dixon said the sudden loss of the oyster farm was a shock.

“We were very surprised and clearly disappointed since it was something that was … going to be an addition to Carnarvon,” he said.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development deputy chief veterinary officer Katie Webb said very little was known about the different species of the parasite and their life cycle.

“And under what circumstances they cause significant disease,” she said.

Dr Webb said testing by DPIRD had ruled out any regulated or reportable diseases requiring a biosecurity response at Harvest Road’s Carnarvon site.

It is understood the outbreak was unrelated to Harvest Road’s Albany operations.

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