87-year-old oyster scientist makes up numbers at Bluff festival

Bluff oyster openers hard at work.
John Hawkins

Bluff oyster openers hard at work.

An 87-year-old marine  scientist with the lofty aim of increasing the number of oysters in the rugged Foveaux Strait will be among thousands attending the Bluff Oyster Festival on Saturday.

The 10-year anniversary of the festival is expected to be buffeted by rough weather but that has not stopped Bob Street from making the trek from Dunedin.

Street has worked in the industry for about four decades and plans to carry on until he is 100 if he can.

He reckons it might take that long to realise his aim of planting substantial numbers of Bluff oysters in Foveaux Strait.

Street has been doing small-scale enhancement trials in rearing small wild Bluff oysters for the last few years.

He puts old weathered oyster shells out for larvae to settle on before on-growing them to the size of a $1 coin and putting them into Foveaux Strait. 

The aim is to repopulate the fishery by giving nature a helping hand, but he has a hard road ahead given it has proved successful in relatively calm waters before, but not in rough seas like Foveaux Strait.

He likens the process to growing seedlings in a forestry nursery before planting them out.

He had been doing it on a very small scale in the Bluff oyster fishery but said it was his objective, with assistance from the oystermen, to expand on it.

Street said his work was being  supported and funded by the wild Bluff oyster industry.

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He hoped it could one day expand numbers of Bluff oysters in Foveaux Strait, but that would only happen if done on a large scale.

"Sometime before I reach 100 I would like to see it done on a bigger scale. That's my intention and there's no harm in being optimistic."

While in Bluff, he would hold discussions with people in the industry about his work, and take time out to eat a few Bluff oysters.

"The more the better."

Barnes Oysters manager Graeme Wright said Street's ongoing trials were a step by step process.

The industry supported Street, who was "old school and incredibly knowledgeable", Wright said.

"He's doing trials to see how feasible it is and whether it could be done on a large scale but we aren't at that stage yet."

 The technique used by Street had proved successful  overseas in calm bays, but the wild waters of the Foveaux Strait were a different proposition, with the sea like a washing machine at times, Wright said.

"It's a step by step process and if we think it's a winner we will invest in it."

 

 

 - The Southland Times

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