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Demand strong as Bluff oysters hit the market

04 March / Evan Harding and Blair Jackson - Stuff

People trying to get their hands on some of the first Bluff oysters on sale
this season were prepared to sneak away from work on Monday and queue
out the door of businesses selling the southern delicacy.

Invercargill man Bob Graham, who works just across the road from
Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters, had ducked out to pick up 10 dozen oysters
for him and his coworkers. When asked how long they would last, he was
not hopeful of their longevity.

“They’ll probably be gone by the time I get back to the front door,” Graham said.

“I’ve been buying them as long as I can remember. And I’ll be back for more this weekend.”

Restaurants in the south were also boasting adding oysters to the menu.
Speights Ale House chef Nathan Wheeler said they were offering the oysters fresh or battered.

“They’ve got their own natural flavour. We don’t want to take away from that”.

Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters manager Graeme Wright said boats that fished
for its company had got out into the strait on Saturday and Sunday and
caught about 3500 dozen oysters.

Westerly winds had prevented them spending too much time on the water but they were out again on Monday, he said.

“I have had a couple [of oysters], they taste just fine.”

Ngai Tahu Seafood sales manager Ken Gray said their boats had also
caught Bluff oysters during the weekend and were out again on Monday.

“I had to steal one. The customers are demanding them.”

The oyster was beautiful, he said. “They are always nice.”

Demand far outweighed supply in the early stages of the season, Gray said.

“Normally up until Easter the market’s strong. Everyone wants to get an early taste.”

The industry can take up to 14.95 million oysters from Foveaux Strait
per season but it has given itself an initial limit of 7.5 million this
season. That number may increase subject to survey results.

In recent seasons, in a bid to manage the fishery, the industry had set itself a limit of 10 million.

Last week, Wright said early evidence suggested there was very little or no oyster parasite Bonamia this season but formal testing results were not yet through.

The Bluff oyster season began on March 1 and ends officially ends on August 31, or if the quota is reached before then.

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