Kim Beamish film looks at impact of climate change on Merimbula oyster farmers

The slow-rising sun casts an orange glow over the tranquil waters of the Merimbula lake, encumbered only by oyster leases and hungry seabirds.

While it might seem like paradise, under the surface there are issues brewing.​

Every six weeks internationally-renowned filmmaker Kim Beamish travels from Canberra to the far south coastal haven of Merimbula to document the lives of a young family of oyster farmers.

Filmmaker Kim Beamish has set his sights on the Merimbula oyster industry for his next documentary.

Filmmaker Kim Beamish has set his sights on the Merimbula oyster industry for his next documentary.

Oysters from Merimbula are a delicacy, often seen on the menu in fine restaurants across the south-eastern seaboard, but an invisible problem has growers concerned.

Greater extremes in water temperature, acidification and rising sea levels could mean an end to the south coast oyster industry.

Mr Beamish said while many people switch off when the phrase "climate change" is muttered, he's taken a direct impact approach in his new film, Oyster.

Fresh oysters. Photo: Adam Gibson

Fresh oysters. Photo: Adam Gibson

For more than a year he has been documenting the lives of the Boytons; Dom, Pip and their sons Sol, 10, and Eddie, 8, who are oyster farmers on the Merimbula Lake.

"I think we've been bombarded with films and news articles that give us lots of facts and figures that are becoming quite meaningless," Mr Beamish said.

"But people can identify with people. And it is their livelihood that is dependent on the weather, the lack of pollution and clean water."

Mr Beamish said seeing the direct results of climate change on a family like the Boytons makes the issue more real.

"The fact that it has rained more this year than any other year means there's more fresh water in the lake, so the oyster farms have to shut down.

"Things like these directly impact on the lives of the farmers."

Aquatic ecologist Dr Chris Fulton of the ANU Research School of Biology has researched the impact of aquatic climate change on oyster farmers.

He said it was likely to be detrimental to the oyster aquaculture industry over the coming decades.

"It's a bleak forecast for aquatic organisms when it comes to climate change. Particularly the south-east and south-west of Australia, which are considered hotspots for aquatic climate change," Dr Fulton said.

Mr Beamish recently returned from Cairo where he documented the Arab Spring. He is fundraising to finish the film, which he hopes will enact change to benefit families like the Boytons.

"The crowdfunding goal is for $25,000… at the moment we're just trying to get the funds to complete the film," he said.

"It's about making sure people are aware of their local environment and making sure they're looking at ways to adapt to the changes that are happening. The film is just a medium to do that."

Delicious fundraiser for South Coast Oyster film

Canberra filmmaker Kim Beamish is making a movie about the oyster and the farmers who make a living pulling them from the seas from Batemans Bay down to Merimbula.

The film, Oyster, focuses on second generation farmers Pip and Dom Boyton and the challenges they face as the changing climate affects the oyster, the coast and their livelihood.

He's trying to raise $25,000 to fund the film and The Durham pub in Kingston is helping out this week.

On Thursday, September 15, they'll release 5 Barrel Brewing's Oyster Stout with $1 from each schooner and pint going to the film. And on Friday, September 16, there'll be a fundraiser with fresh shucked $1 oysters and $10 platters of oysters and sparkling wine. Have an oyster, grab a pint and support the film.

See Donate to the Kickstarter at