Bonamia ostreae response update – Thursday 29 June

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The second week of operational activity to remove flat oysters from Big Glory Bay, Stewart Island continues to progress well. The oysters are being removed in a bid to halt the spread of Bonamia ostreae to the Foveaux Strait wild fisheries.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) field headquarters manager Catherine MacGowan says this week's focus has been on phase 2 of the operation, which is removing the remaining cages.

"Almost 400 cages have been removed this week and we expect that, by the end of tomorrow, we will have removed 40 tonnes. This brings the overall total of removed material to around 80 tonnes.

"The next phase will move to uplifting ropes and strings. We met with farmers in Bluff and on Stewart Island this week to complete the planning for this stage and we hope to be able to start lifting ropes next week. Our approach will continue to be fine-tuned as the operation progresses.

"The removal operation is a huge task and we are thankful for the support of the community and assistance from oyster farmers to make it happen.

"Testing has also been a priority this week. Last week MPI responded to public concerns by committing to running an additional round of sampling and testing of wild oysters from Foveaux Strait. This week we completed the sampling and the samples are now at the lab for testing. We are expecting to have results within 3 weeks.

"Recent testing has also been done on oyster larvae from a hatchery in Bluff and nearby wild oysters. Bonamia ostreae was not detected. This testing was done to provide further assurance that the parasite is contained in Big Glory Bay.

"This operation is having a significant impact on the affected farmers, their families and staff, and the wider community. MPI is working closely with the Rural Support Trust, government agencies, the city, district and regional councils, and political leadership to ensure welfare services and support are available to anyone who needs it. This is a high priority for us.

"Stress and anxiety affect people differently so we encourage anyone feeling symptoms to ask for help early.

"MPI now has 2 primary industry recovery coordinators on the mainland, and is contracting a local Stewart Island primary industry recovery coordinator. These roles are focused on making sure welfare needs of the affected farmers are understood and met.

"The coordinators will be available at all times to provide support, including advice and information on how to access services from other support organisations, such as the Rural Support Trust and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

"In addition, MPI intends to contract a compensation specialist to be based in Southland to provide the affected farmers with further help on obtaining compensation.

Planning is underway for the removal operation in Marlborough.

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