Oyster season over but people still have a craving for more

16 August / Uma Ahmed / Stuff

An oyster industry insider thinks the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic may have made people want to devour the popular delicacy even more than usual.

Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters manager Graeme Wright said the company had to disappoint customers every day since last month when they sold their last batch of oysters.

“I guess the world we live in with Covid-19, that you know people aren’t able to spend their money on holidays and things or whatever, so they have a nice bottle of wine and a dozen of oysters or something,” he said.

Each year the oyster season starts on March 1 and ends on August 31.

The Government’s quota for the entire oyster industry had been set to 14.95 million, but the industry had decided to harvest 7.5m this year for sustainability purposes, Wright said.

Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters processed about 65 percent of the annual quota, but had completed harvesting and selling by July 27, Wright said.

Since having sold their last batch, retailers and individuals have been emailing and calling every day to know if any were left for sale, he said.

Every year an industry survey was conducted in conjunction with the Government in February. The industry sets its quota based on the survey.

“We go out and do some sampling. We look at the disease, look at the recruitment processes, look at the numbers, you know the densities, the size range of oysters.

“So, we get a good snapshot every year from a science perspective,” he said.

According to Wright, the two main factors that drive the oyster fishery is the Bonamia parasite and the recruitment process of young juvenile oysters.

The parasite does not kill the oysters, but rather affects the blood cells which causes the oysters to weaken.

“Basically, an oyster when it’s weakened it opens its mouth ... and then the predators get in there. So the starfish and the crabs gobble them up,” he said.

Since the 1960s, Bonamia exitiosa had been what affected the oysters but Bonamia ostreae parasite is a new strain discovered in New Zealand in the past few years, Wright said.

Wright had not heard of any reports this season of widespread mortality detected.

“But you’re always going to get something, you’ve got livestock, you’ve got deadstock,” he said.

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