Bigger, better Bluff oysters…..bon appétit!


Bigger, better, Bluff oysters look set to be on the menu when the 2009 oyster season opens on Sunday.

That’s according to the latest National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) survey of the Foveaux Strait oyster beds which finished this week, combined with data recorded from the fishery last season.

The survey, which is carried out every two years for the Ministry of Fisheries, estimates the size of the oyster population and levels of Bonamia, a disease that kills oysters.

An outbreak of Bonamia is estimated to have killed around one billion Bluff oysters between 2000 and 2003.

NIWA fisheries scientist Keith Michael said 2009 looks to be shaping up as a much better season for oyster lovers.

“Since 2005, Bonamia levels have been dropping off and the oyster beds are rebuilding,” Mr Michael says.

Bonamia is a disease that affects larger oysters so it’s been a while since we have seen a lot of the older, large oysters. Now we are starting to get quite big-shelled oysters with a higher volume of meat.”

“That’s good news for oyster lovers when they hit stores and restaurants on Sunday, if the weather allows,” Mr Michael says.

Over the two-week survey, samples are taken from more than a hundred sites in Foveaux Strait, and sent to NIWA in Wellington for analysis.

As well as stock assessments, NIWA is also involved in other science programmes aimed at improving information available to the Bluff oyster fishery including research on improved fishing techniques, understanding disease, and better management of the oyster beds.

The official Bluff oyster season opens on Sunday (March 1) and ends on the August 31.

Final results from the oyster survey will be released by the Ministry of Fisheries in late April.