Unanswered questions on oysters

A Bluff oysterer has unanswered questions following a community meeting on the discovery of an oyster-killing parasite in Foveaux Strait, but says he is feeling more buoyant.

Biosecurity New Zealand held two meetings, in Bluff and Stewart Island, last week for people concerned about the discovery of Bonamia ostreae in three wild oysters in March.

Little is known about how it could affect a wild population.

Overseas, it has proved catastrophic for flat oyster farmers, causing over 90% mortality. Farms were removed when the parasite was found in Big Glory Bay on Stewart Island in 2017, and a surveillance programme to find early signs of the parasite in the wild began.

Bluff oysterer John Edminstin said the meeting last Thursday did not provide much new information, but he felt more buoyant than when the discovery was made.

Biosecurity New Zealand

said it was committed to working through the issue with those most affected and the meetings provided a chance to talk about plans for future work.

‘‘There will be a future consultation process on both the appropriate measures to manage the wild oysters and the potential for future flat oyster farming.

Since March, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research had sampled and tested 2820 oysters from 19 locations in Foveaux Strait, all of which tested negative for the parasite and there was no sign of increased oyster mortality or illness.

This was welcome news for Mr Edminstin.

In an attempt to minimise potential for spread, a rahui and controls were put in place after the discovery to stop people from fishing in the area where the oysters were found.

This remained in place. Fisheries New Zealand advised there had been six instances of commercial oyster or fishing vessels being inside the zone.

There had been no repeat offending.

Next steps included setting up a technical advisory group, and ongoing testing and planning.

Bonamia ostreae is not a food safety issue.


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