Oyster Farm Marker ; 1944; 2014/337


Mid North Coast Maritime Museum


Oyster Farm Marker

About this object

This timber sign was once used to identify Oyster Farm, Lease No. 44150, owned by Hastings Dick McLaren [1889-1980] a Port Macquarie native and successful oyster farmer for more than 60 years.

Hastings was the son of Daniel McLaren and Lizzie Dick, and grandson of John Suart Dick who is regarded as establishing the first farms for the commercial cultivation of oysters in Port Macquarie during the late 1880s. When John Dick died his leases were passed on to his son Ernest and his son-in-law Daniel McLaren, who continued to work the leases and expand production, using methods pioneered by Thomas Dick, another son of John Suart Dick. Thomas Dick’s observations and meticulous research regarding oyster culture led to the on-going success of the industry in the Hastings River and its tributaries.

As the industry grew in Port Macquarie and elsewhere in NSW, the State Government appointed local fishing inspectors to mark out and record the placement and dimensions of each oyster farm, and to keep a register of oyster lease owners in order to protect against over-fishing and the depletion of the natural oyster beds.

When the placement of the leases had been accurately determined, oyster farmers were required to display their lease number prominently along the outer limits of the farm boundaries. Hastings McLaren acquired Lease No. 44150, which was located offshore in Limeburners Creek, a tributary of the Hastings River, in June 1944, so it is likely that this marker sign was placed on his lease in 1944 and is representative of markers used at that time. Timber markers have since been replaced by metal markers which are required to be placed on each corner of all oyster farms.

Over the years, the Hastings River has become the largest seed producing estuary in New South Wales and the fifth largest producer of oysters for human consumption in the State. There are currently 28 registered growers on the River and approximately 6.6 million oysters are harvested for consumption each year.

The success and the growth of the oyster industry in the Port Macquarie region is largely due to the early experimental work and practices pioneered and continued by members of the Dick and McLaren families over the past 100 years.

Thus whilst this weather-worn timber marker is a rare surviving object associated with an oyster producing farm of the 1940s, it is also associated with Hastings Dick McLaren, who along with his forebears contributed to the ongoing success and continuing importance of the oyster industry along the Hastings River and in the Port Macquarie region as a whole.

Margaret Blight
30 September 2014

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