Bluff oysters are back

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 11:56 01/03/2014
oyster
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

BUSY AT WORK: Barnes Oysters openers prepare the Bluff beauties.

Barnes Oysters openers prepare
YUM YUM: A Bluff oyster.

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Succulent Bluff oysters are starting to appear on shop shelves after the season opened at midnight today, but the delicacies are not expected to be widely available in most supermarkets until early next week.

"There will be a little bit getting around the country today," Bluff Oyster Management Company spokesman and Barnes Oysters manager Graeme Wright said.

Some of the 11 boats in the fleet had gone out last night to be ready to start harvesting as soon as the season opened, and the first boat had been back in port before 8am.

Wright said his priority was to ensure Invercargill customers were well supplied, but Barnes Oysters was also sending some to the Christchurch Casino today.

He expected the oysters would be in supermarkets around the country by Monday or Tuesday.

"Demand is huge, absolutely," Wright said.

Immediate nationwide distribution was constrained by the limited availability of couriers over the weekend and by the capacity available on flights.

Another factor was the weather in Foveaux Strait, which was good today but conditions forecast for tomorrow were "marginal".

Early indications were that the stock was healthy and a repeat of the "fantastic" 2013 season when 13.2 million oysters were harvested.

Pre-season sampling carried out in conjunction with Niwa and the Ministry for Primary Industries was looking promising, although official results were not through yet.

The industry was rebuilding towards the total allowable commercial catch limit of 14.95 million oysters, after the fishery was damaged by the bonamia parasite in the early 2000s.

The industry had voluntarily shelved half the quota at that time, and had started lifting if from 2005 onwards, Wright said.

This year it had started at the 2013 figure of 13.2m oysters, which would be reassessed once full results of the pre-season survey were known and once harvesting had been under way for six to eight weeks.

Pricing of the shellfish from Barnes Oysters was the same as in 2013, with the factory's retail shop in Invercargill charging $23 a dozen.

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