Wapengo Rocks' organic oysters win gold at Australian Food Awards

WINNER: Wapengo Rocks owner Shane Buckley holds one of his freshly opened oysters on a beautiful day at his farm on Wapengo Lake.
WINNER: Wapengo Rocks owner Shane Buckley holds one of his freshly opened oysters on a beautiful day at his farm on Wapengo Lake.

The pure water at Wapengo Lake is working wonders for a local oyster farmer.

Wapengo Rocks has won a gold medal at the 2016 Australian Food Awards (AFA) for premium bistro grade oysters grown on the organically certified farm.

“It’s another affirmation of what we are doing and that we are going about it the right way,” owner Shane Buckley said. 

“It gives our customers another assurance that the product they are using is of a calibre to win awards.” 

To Mr Buckley’s knowledge, his farm is the only organically certified Sydney rock oyster farm in the world. 

“There’s no real benchmark for sustainability in the oyster industry,” he said.

“We wanted some recognition for the work we’d already done and the only way to do that is to get certification.

“Being organic improves the quality of oysters.” 

On his farm he does not use treated pine, tar and has removed the fixed infrastructure. He now uses “floating bags” to grow his oysters, which drift with the wind and tide and allow light to reach the lake bed so do not kill sea weeds or grasses growing beneath them. 

Only Sydney rock oysters are grown at the farm, because Pacific oysters are not native and he said introduced species should not be brought to the lake. 

Mr Buckley said Wapengo Lake had the “highest water quality in the state”, as it was always open to the ocean and surrounded by national park and state forest with few dwellings so the catchment was extremely clean. 

His business crops about 45,000-50,000 dozen oysters a year, but he expects to be doing 100,000 dozen in the next two years. 

While Mr Buckley bought his first farm in 2007 he purchased a second “stick and tar” farm nearby two years ago, but removed the “stick and tar” because it is bad on the environment. Now he is now the second largest leaseholder on the lake.

Word of the farm’s quality produce spreading across the world, as while he sells them out of the Bermagui Oyster Room and supplies them to restaurants, he also has some prospective buyers in Singapore.