Oysters ready to launch

23:47, Mar 15 2010

The harvesting of Marlborough's acclaimed Tio Point oysters is set to begin later this week, with a foray into international markets locked in for later this season.

Marlborough marine farmer Bruce Hearn said French Polynesia had already placed orders for his oysters, and there was strong interest from Singapore and Hong Kong.

He hoped to start supplying his product to the local market on Friday.

The oysters, grown in Tory Channel, are the same species as those dredged from Foveaux Strait.

Mr Hearn's oysters have had praise from chefs around New Zealand, including Shaun Clouston, head chef at acclaimed Wellington restaurant Logan Brown.

Tio Point oysters and Cloudy Bay's Pelorus NV also took the Supreme Wine and Food Match at this year's Marlborough Wine Festival competition.

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News that Bluff oysters have been farmed successfully at the top of the south has caused a stir in Southland, but Mr Hearn remained adamant he was not targeting the same market, instead preferring to target the "high-end" sector which wanted a live product.

Mr Hearn said the beginning of harvest was about six weeks late this year because of an extremely cold October and cloudy summer, which had failed to boost water temperatures in Tory Channel.

The cold conditions had confused the oysters, which did not know when to finish spawning, he said.

An automated machine, which would clean oysters when harvested, was a new innovation for this season.

The Marlborough Express