Bluff oyster quota achieved after stormy season

10 August / Phil McCarthy - The Southland Times

More settled weather through the latter part of winter has allowed the Bluff oyster industry to reach its 10 million quota for the season, Bluff Oyster Management Company spokesman Graeme Wright says.

Only one boat was still out fishing and it had about 4 to 5 more days of fishing, as the season wound down, he said.

“It’s all but all done, about 98 per cent done.”

They had lost a lot of fishing days through early and mid-winter and boats only got out for about eight days in June. Settled periods since then had helped them catch up, he said.

“It’s still down a wee bit but we’ve had some reasonable catches.”

The other companies had finished fishing their quota, some had finished as early as the end of May, Wright said.

In the early 2000s the total allowable catch had been 14.95 million oysters, when the oyster-killing parasite bonamia hit in about 2002 the quota - with mortality rates of up to 80 per cent in the Foveaux Strait fishery - dropped back to about 7 million. Since then it had crept back up incrementally as Niwa studies showed bonamia was becoming less of a problem. The quota was scaled back from 13 million in 2014 to 10 million this year because of concerns it was on the rise again.

However, Wright said the mortality rate from bonamia was just below 10 per cent this year, down significantly from the 30 per cent figure of 2014.

The oyster management company was putting more efforts into further research about bonamia, he said.

“It’s just a fact of the way the fishery operates. We’re getting cleverer at detecting it.”

When asked if dredging had an effect on the beds, Wright said evidence did not point to this as there had been huge mortality through bonamia in areas that had never been commercially dredged.

Only about 30 per cent of the strait’s beds were commercially viable for fishing, he said.

As fresh oyster supplies dwindled, Wright said Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters was likely to have “dribbles around this week” but most would be gone after that.

- The Southland Times

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