Mumbulla Mountain, sacred to the Yuin people, forms the catchment for the pristine waters that feed Wapengo Lake. Our native oysters have grown here for thousands of years and have been farmed since the late 1880s.
The clean waters that flow into Wapengo are filtered by the surrounding national parks, state forests and salt marshes.
We took the opportunity to marry the latest in sustainable aqua-culture techniques with the purest water quality and have created the first certified organic Rock Oyster farm.
Our cultivation techniques are restoring the lake ecology and improving estuarine habitat; the sea grass beds are regenerating because they receive more sunshine. We also source all our infra-structure utilising the best re-cycled or recyclable materials.
Our hand selected multi-award winning oysters are received by individuals and select restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and regional NSW.
Wapengo Rocks offer the discerning consumer a taste experience that can be described as a unique combination of minerals, salt and delicate creaminess. The mouth feel lingers long after the oyster is gone.
My name is Shane Buckley and I’m the proud owner of Wapengo Rocks. We specialise in wild caught native Rock Oysters from Wapengo Lake, situated on the Far South Coast of NSW. We bought the farm in 2007 from Young Bob who has hung around and provided invaluable mentorship. He’s 79 yrs old and still tinkers with the machinations of the farm (and engineers for my crazy ideas).
Oyster farming has been a part of Wapengo Lake since the 1890s. Evidence of the earliest techniques can be seen along our shoreline with some old rock rows still in place. Today, our infrastructure is quite different.
It’s taken six years to transition standard ‘post and rail’ cultivation techniques to more sustainable practices. We now use only recycled or recyclable materials rather than industry standard treated pine and tar coated sticks. The new floating ‘dynamic long line’ system has less impact on the lake bed and encourages sea grasses to regrow where they previously died off due to over-shading. We’re keen on promoting the restoration of the ecosystem and habitat as much as possible. It’s our obligation and I feel privileged to farm in such a beautiful environment surrounded by State Forests and National Parks.
Our efforts culminated in receiving organic certification from Australian Certified Organic (ACO) in May 2013. That’s how we became Wapengo Rocks Wild Organic Oysters. We’re also involved in industry bodies because we want to see an increase in sustainability (and oyster lovers). Last year we purchased a second farm and we’re working on transforming it too. Oyster farmers must be crazy – it’s back breaking work but a labour of love. Fortunately, oysters aren’t hard to lasso.
On the NSW Far South Coast, it is widely recognised that Wapengo Lake has pristine water quality and that oysters harvested from here are the best you can get. Wapengo Lake is surrounded by forests and small farms, and is fed by water that flows from National Parks and State Forests.
The first thing we’ve set out to do is improve the water quality on our leases even further by completely removing all polluting products and infrastructure. That means no more treated pine or tar coated sticks on our farm. These materials have traditionally been used in the oyster industry for decades because of their low cost and durability. Replacing infrastructure has been hard work, but we now use only recycled or recyclable materials. As an example, we have posts that are the only ones available on the market composed of 100% recycled plastic and manufactured in Australia.
In our efforts to continually improve water quality we have dramatically reduced the amount of fixed (non-moving) infrastructure. Our old post and rail racks were treated pine but they have been replaced with plastic posts or flumed (plastic sleeved) untreated natural timber.
Our new infrastructure is what we call ‘dynamic long lines’ with floating baskets. An example of our cultivation practices being more sustainable than before is the requirement of only 8 posts per row in our long line systems. Housing the equivalent volume of oysters in the old system required 180 – 200 treated pine posts and around 300m of treated pine rail.
We have reduced the incidence of post and rail to 5% of what it was before we began organic conversion. This is important because the old infrastructure shaded the lake-bed and therefore destroyed the seagrasses by depriving them of sunlight. The new system moves; the long lines with attached floating baskets actively move across the top of the water and ‘sway’ in the currents, letting more light in and allowing the seagrass beds to regrow. We are promoting the restoration of the ecosystem and habitat which existed before oyster cultivation began in Wapengo Lake over 130 years ago.
There is also no longer any stressing of the oysters. Old stick cultured oysters had to be knocked forcibly from the sticks and then ‘culled’ using a steel file to knock them apart. This action caused the oyster ‘culling shock’ that would actually kill a percentage of oysters. Our oysters are now caught wild as single seed, requiring no harsh treatment throughout their life. We believe our husbandry practices are indicative of their quality.
Organic certification is normally a three-year process. All of these factors and more led Australian Certified Organic (ACO) to grant us Organic Certification with only one year of conversion. For us, organic certification means that our sustainable practices and ecosystems approach is formally acknowledged and recognised.
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