Oyster harvesting suspended

Many boats are tied up at South Port, including oyster boats, as people stay home during lockdown...
Many boats are tied up at South Port, including oyster boats, as people stay home during lockdown. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH
The oyster season is on "pause" mode due to the countrywide lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Dozens of boats, which during the season left Bluff daily to catch the southern delicacy in Foveaux Strait, will remain anchored for at least the next four weeks.

Skeggs’ skipper John Edminist said the oyster industry suspended the work as a small sacrifice for a bigger and necessary outcome.

“People will need to behave and follow the Government's advice on the lockdown if they want to eat some oysters this year."

Since the beginning of the season on March 1, he reckoned the oyster industry was able to catch 25% of the quota. While the industry could take 14.95million oysters from the Foveaux Strait fishery each season, it had decided to start with 7.5million.

A representative of the Ministry for Primary Industries said the oyster industry voluntary harvest pause happened earlier this week.

"MPI requires assurances from industries and businesses that processes protect workers and the public by reducing the potential spread of Covid-19 ...

"The transmission risk rises with the number of staff on-site."

Oysters could be harvested if commercial fishers registered with MPI, and had an appropriate plan to manage the risks of Covid-19 transmission. They must also register through the essential services registration process.

"If they can’t achieve a safe work environment then they can’t operate."

They said it was too early to determine the economic impacts of Covid-19 on the fishery but said oysters could still be exported, provided the necessary process was followed.

MPI also said there were no plans to extend the oyster season, which is due to end in August, but that it was an "ever-evolving situation".

Any decisions to supply supermarkets would be up to the supermarkets and the oyster fishing industry, they said.

Mr Edminist is also chairman of the Bluff Oyster Festival, which has been postponed until next year.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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