HISTORY OF THE SYDNEY ROCK OYSTER
The history of the Sydney Rock Oyster, our industry, farmers and our company spans thousands of years dating back to the earliest recorded Australians. With years of cultivation, craftsmanship and amassed knowledge the Sydney Rock Oyster has become one of the world’s most sought after delicacies and together forge the East 33 story.
Thousands of years ago...
The native Sydney Rock Oyster has thrived in the sun-kissed waterways of New South Wales for thousands of years. Originally enjoyed by the traditional custodians of this land that we now know as New South Wales. The nutrient rich meat of the Sydney Rock Oyster provided much of the vitamins and nutrients required in a healthy daily diet.
A BOLD MAN
In 1880, Thomas Holt, the true father of scientific oyster cultivation in Australia, began to observe the fascinating nature of the Sydney Rock, and by 1865 noticed that the native oyster had been widely plundered for its natural health benefits and delicious flavour. In response to this, the creation of Australia’s first oyster cultivation beds at Weeney Bay (now known as Botany Bay in Sydney, NSW), were created, of which Holt was fundamental to their establishment. Holt’s bold move laid the foundation for the future of Australian oyster aquaculture; in 1876, Holt was appointed as Chairman of a Royal Commission into Oyster Culture, which in 1880 resulted in Parliament passing laws to enable the formation of oyster leases as we know them today, ensuring the survival of the native Sydney Rock Oyster.
WOODWARD AND WALLIS LAKE
Enter Henry Woodward, a merchant banker from Sydney’s CBD. Woodward was granted the first oyster leases in Wallis Lake, following Thomas Holt’s Fishery and Oyster Farms Act of 1884. Woodward also pioneered the “oyster saloon’, places that brought oysters into the mainstream. Due to their delicious nature and health benefits, ‘bottled’ oysters were born.
THE BROWNE FAMILY
As one of the earliest pioneering families, Percival James Melville Browne arrived in the Port Stephens region in 1886. In 1920, Percival’s son, Harry Remington Browne, acquired the family’s first official leases. Harry Remington Browne worked the leases with his son. John Benson Browne, and in 1984, John’s son and now East 33 farmer, Glenn Browne, took over operation - The Browne family is one of the longest continuous family lines of active oyster farmers to this day.
THE SCIACCA FAMILY
In 1889, Phillipo Sciacca migrated to Australia to join his brother-in-law Vincenzo Fazio, who resided on the breathtaking Wallis Lake on New South Wales Mid-North Coast. As both men were professional fishermen and fished in Wallis Lake for many years, a keen interest in Sydney Rock Oyster farming was sparked. Phillipos’ sons Tony and Vince then acquired the family’s first oyster leases in 1916. Through the generations, Vince’s sons Maurice and Max continued oyster farming into their later years, passing on the legacy to Maurice’s sons, Anthony, Phillip and Andrew who are now third-generation oyster farmers and remain part of one of the oldest inter-generational family lines of oyster farmers in Australia.
THE DIEMAR FAMILY
In 1899, Henry Thompson and his sons commenced a combination of fishing and Sydney Rock Oyster farming in the Port Stephens estuary. In 1945, Henry’s grandsons’ Mark and Victor experimented with the concept of sawn hardwood sticks, nailed into a block of 100 and dipped into a thin tar, dried then placed onto timber racks on their wild oyster catching leases. This innovation led to a huge expansion of the industry. A few years later Mark, sadly died. Victor and his sons, Warren, Brian and Peter, founded V.C.Diemar PTY LTD in 1971, which over the years expanded into Georges River, Port Stephens, Macleay River and later the Hawkesbury River. Continuing the family legacy, Brian’s son Robert and Warren’s son Graeme entered into the family business in 1972 and for the last 25 years have run it as their own. With no future predecessors entering the family business, Robert has united with East 33.
THE VERDICH FAMILY
In the early 1900’s, Carl Ingersol Verdich and his six sons established Verdich Bros Oysters on the banks of Georges River. Together these brothers farmed on multiple estuaries up and down the NSW coastline, utilising “highway oyster farming”, moving oysters from area to area to maximise growth and give a unique flavour profile, renowned for excellence. In 1974, Maurice Sydney Verdich established the Wallis Lake branch of the business with his two sons, Stephen and Clifford. Stephen and two of his sons, Brad and Rhys, now continue the family legacy running M.S.Verdich & Sons, with the business now part of East 33.
THE TROUP FAMILY
Introducing first generation farmer Tony Troup, from Camden Haven. Tony began oyster farming after a fascination with aquaculture was sparked while completing his Marine Biology degree, this then led to Tony commencing oyster farming in 1980. Tony expanded his knowledge with a Master of Science degree and from 2005 became involved with the NSW breeding program, installing a nursery to-on-grow juvenile hatchery-bred oysters. Later, in 2012, Tony developed a Sydney Rock Oyster hatchery system where he could breed oysters in a controlled environment. Today Tony is the East 33 Head of Hatchery, and his knowledge continues to pioneer the Sydney Rock Oyster and the East 33 legacy.
UNDER ONE BANNER
In 2019, these farming families and many others have united together as East 33. Collectively they combine hundreds of years of farming knowledge, creating the world’s foremost collective of Sydney Rock Oyster farming expertise. The East 33 mission is to pioneer the world’s best oyster culture, by empowering the people behind it, caring for the places that support it and delivering moments to be savoured.