Tsunami costly for mussel farmers

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 12:00 29/03/2011

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Tsunami currents that tangled mussel lines in the Marlborough Sounds damaged an estimated $250,000 of mussels in Port Underwood, a marine farmer says.

But the full extent of the damage will remain unknown until hundreds of tonnes of mussels on the damaged lines are harvested.

Port Underwood marine farmer Ray Thomas said about 75 per cent of the 70 lines damaged in the sound had been repaired, but some farmers still had days of work ahead of them.

About 15 per cent or 420 tonnes of mussels on the affected lines would be lost, Mr Thomas said.

The market price for a tonne of mussels was about $600. The incident was the worst he had seen hit the industry in a career of 24 years.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it [the damage]. It was just mind boggling

"I just looked at it and thought I want to go on holiday."

Mr Thomas's son, Paul, had five lines damaged by the tsunami. Ten bigger anchors had been fixed to the lines at a cost of $16,000. It would take at least another three days until all the damage was repaired, he said.

Strong, erratic currents caused by the magnitude 8.9 earthquake off the east coast of Japan damaged more than 100 mussel lines in Port Underwood and Croisilles Harbour on March 11 and 12.

Port Underwood mussel farmer Bruce Hearn said repairs to 15 of his mussel farms finished about a week ago.

The damage was "serious" and the cost of repairs and new parts to farmers in the area could be in excess of $200,000.

He would be "going back to the drawing board" to find ways to avoid damage in the future.

Heavier ropes and anchors were an obvious solution, he said.

"It's just one of those things that happens.

"You fix it and change the way you do things to minimise problems if it happens again."

Hebberd Marine Farm Services owner Maurie Hebberd said the major repair work to about 30 damaged mussel lines in Croisilles Harbour finished last Friday, but "tidying up" continued.

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- The Marlborough Express

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