Farm-fresh Bluff oysters eyed

TERRI RUSSELL
Last updated 05:00 09/09/2013
Rodney Clark
FROM THE FARM: New Zealand Bluff Oyster Co’s general manager Rodney Clark with his farm-grown oysters.

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A Bluff oyster company says it has cracked the secret to farming the Bluff oyster for export.

But the company, which is based in the old Ocean Beach meatworks in the port town, will not be ready to start production until it finds suitable waters to finish off the oysters.

New Zealand's Bluff Oyster Co general manager Rodney Clark said they would then be ready to produce millions of oysters for the world market.

Mr Clark, who has been involved in the Southland fishing industry for 25 years, said he started pioneering the project a decade ago.

The hatchery and nursery were now "perfected" and ready to produce millions of oyster spat and adult-sized oysters for export, he said.

"This has the potential, with the right support in the southern region, to produce hundreds of new jobs but it will need support from councils and local government," he said.

Targeting the export market would avoid flooding the New Zealand market and help to protect the existing wild Bluff oyster industry, Mr Clark said.

The oysters would be grown in the hatchery before moving into Bluff Harbour. But the harbour is not "certified waters" so the oysters would need to be moved to other certified waters approved for the sale of shellfish for export.

New Zealand's Bluff Oyster Co is working with Southern Clams, which is based in Dunedin.

Southern Clams operations manager Dave Redshaw said he was in the process of applying for a resource consent to finish the Bluff oysters in Otago Harbour.

The farmed Bluff oysters would be moved to the harbour for two weeks to cleanse before meeting export standard, he said.

The Otago Regional Council had rejected two applications because of insufficient information, but the company expected to present its third application next month, he said.

The oysters would probably be in the harbour in about a year, Mr Redshaw said.

Barnes Oysters manager Graeme Wright said he did not believe that farmed oysters would be "true competition" for the wild Bluff oyster in Foveaux Strait.

Mr Wright said he knew of other companies already farming Bluff oysters and selling them throughout New Zealand, but not exporting them.

Barnes Oysters could export the wild Foveaux Strait oysters, but there was enough demand within New Zealand, he said.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was really excited by the prospects of the farmed oysters. "There's a worldwide demand for oysters," he said.

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"It's just what we need, another major export industry."

terri.russell@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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