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02 March / Stuff.co.nz
The famous Bluff oysters will be on their way to market very soon with the fishing fleet heading out early on Monday for the official start of the season.
There’s about 11 vessels in the fishing fleet connected to the oyster industry in the south, and the bulk of them will leave about 3am on Monday for the fishery in Foveaux Strait to harvest the delicacy.
Early indications are the fishery is in good health. The weather forecast for the first three days of the season is also looking good for fishermen as they head out.
Graeme Wright, of Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters, said early indications of the fishery showed there was a number of juvenile oysters, which was a good sign for the overall health and future of the fishery.
However, official samples and testing has yet to be completed, but overall the oysters were looking good, he said.
The total allowable commercial catch of the fishery is 14.95 million oysters but in past years the industry has set a standard of taking 7.5 million, and it’ll be the same again in 2021.
This will be subject to a review of the fishery in late March and April when all tests should have been completed.
Wright, who predominantly sells oysters with a focus in Southland and Otago, said he was unsure what impact Covid-19 might have on demand for the Bluff oysters.
The hospitality industry throughout the country has had a tough time of it, and some restaurants have taken a hiatus or closed due to loss of trade caused by Covid-19.
However, Wright believed there would still be a strong demand overall for the oysters once they started coming in from Monday.
Prices of the oysters vary around the country depending on whether they were sold at fish n’ chip shops or high-end restaurants.
Barnes’ will retail a dozen oysters for $27, which was on par with 2020.
In 2017 Bonamia ostreae, a parasite which is deadly to flat oysters, was discovered in farmed oysters in Big Glory Bay.
It resulted in pulling up all the farmed oysters in Big Glory Bay, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the parasite to the wild oysters fisheries in the Strait.
The oyster season runs from March 1 to August.