Oyster farmer calls industry's Bluff

01:43, Jan 31 2009

We're growing their oysters here.

Marlborough marine farmer Bruce Hearn, of Tio Point Oysters, is farming oysters of the same species as the wild flat oysters dredged from Foveaux Strait to supply high-end restaurants.

News that the Bluff icon is being farmed at the top of the South has caused a stir in Southland, but Mr Hearn said he did not feel his operation would be a threat to the Foveaux Strait industry because it was a very small-scale operation. He hoped to supply about three restaurants in Marlborough and potentially a limited number of restaurants in Wellington and Auckland.

He said he had been growing the oysters in the Marlborough Sounds for the past 20 years, but the number of oysters being grown had only recently reached a marketable level.

He did not want the location of the farm identified.

The Southland Times has reported southern industry members saying there was only one Bluff oyster and its taste was unique to Southland because of its growing conditions in the cold and clear waters of Foveaux Strait.


Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said oyster farming elsewhere was a threat to the Bluff oyster trade.

"I think our concern is that the (Foveaux Strait) natural oyster industry could be threatened by successful oyster farming activities elsewhere in New Zealand. So in Southland there's a vital need for industry players to work together to ensure there's a viable industry that continues to thrive," he said.

The Bluff oyster species grows in the wild in Chile and in other parts of New Zealand, including Nelson. It is understood it is also being farm-grown in Stewart Island and Bluff.

Mr Hearn told Cuisine Magazine his Tio Point oysters would be even better than the wild variety but his farms would only ever produce hundreds of thousands of oysters compared to the millions that came from Bluff every year.

Steve Logan, owner of high-end Wellington restaurant Logan Brown, said he was excited about serving the Tio Point oysters to diners as they would be available when Bluff oysters weren't: "They are the next best thing."


The Marlborough Express