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01 May / Blake Foden - The Southland Times
Bluff’s oyster fleet remains confident of reaching its quota of 10 million oysters before the end of the season despite poor weather hampering efforts over the past month.
Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters general manager Graeme Wright said rain and strong winds prevented boats going out into Foveaux Strait every day this week except Tuesday.
There were still three months left in the season and after good weather during March the target was “definitely achievable”, he said.
“The demand is as crazy as ever, so there have been no issues there,” Wright said.
“The weather was good for the first three or four weeks but since about the week before Easter you could say it’s been a little bit chaotic.”
Wright hoped to have boats back out and oysters available again from Sunday. A lack of oysters to coincide with the start of the duck shooting season on Saturday was a blow, he said.
“This has traditionally been a big weekend for us,” he said. “There are a lot of duck hunters around the country who enjoy having some oysters at the end of the day, but it’s not going to happen this year unfortunately.”
Wright said the quota for Foveaux Strait had been set at 10 million oysters, down from 13.2 million last year.
The reduction was the result of a decision to take a cautious approach as the fishery continues its battle with the parasite bonamia, he said.
“Since 2005 we’ve had about a 10 per cent mortality rate in our fishery, but last year it was up around 20 per cent,” Wright said.
“The forecast for this season is back around 10 or 11 per cent, but because we had a bit more bonamia out there last year it’s knocked the density of the oysters around a bit so we’ve scaled it back by about 3 million oysters as a precaution.
“The season finishes on August 1 and whether we’ve hit the quota or not, that’s when we’ll be finishing.”
Wright said more research aimed at better understanding bonamia - which forced the closure of the fishery between 1994 and 1996 and killed about 90 per cent of the oyster population in 2001/02 - was being conducted each year.
“Bonamia is part of the fishery - it’s well-documented and it’s not ideal but it’s reality,” he said.
“There’s no magic pill to get rid of it so as a fishery we’ve just got to understand it and learn to manage and live with it.”
- The Southland Times