Oyster removal to start

Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

The Ministry for Primary Industries has announced details about how the first flat oysters will be removed from commercial farms in Big Glory Bay, Stewart Island, in a bid to halt the spread of Bonamia ostreae.

The removal of caged oysters is due to start on Monday.

The main points of the plan are:

  • Oysters will be uplifted by crane, then securely transported by vessel and truck to a landfill in Bluff for disposal.
  • When lifted, oysters will be disinfected when they are placed in the vessel and wrapped. The wrapping provides a barrier to prevent contamination of surfaces during transport.
  • When loaded, all vessels transporting oysters will be disinfected and cleaned again prior to leaving the bay to ensure there is no residue or infected material on the side of the vessel.
  • Vessels transporting oysters will take an indirect route from Stewart Island that avoids passing near oyster fisheries in Foveaux Strait and sites of significance to local iwi.
  • Further cleaning will take place at the port upon landing, with trucks disinfected before leaving.
  • Oysters will be securely transported to the landfill, where they will be quickly buried under lime and dirt to provide protection from vermin and ensure rapid decomposition.
  • Trucks will be cleaned again prior to leaving the landfill.

“We have acknowledged the strong feeling among locals to act quickly and to minimise the chance of any further spread during the removal process,” says Geoff Gwyn, MPI Readiness and Response Director.

“Our aim is to complete the work with minimal disruption to the local community.

“The plan is the result of talks with a wide range of stakeholder groups, including Environment Southland, Southland District Council and local iwi. It is a starting point that we will build on as we progress to other oyster farms that use ropes rather than cages.

“We will be engaging further with local communities to ensure they have an opportunity to influence some of the finer details. This includes community meetings in Stewart Island and Bluff this week that will give local people the opportunity to ask questions about the plan.”

Mr Gwyn says MPI is continuing to support local farmers affected by the removal by providing operational assistance, advice on how to receive compensation and other support as required.

“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.”

Bonamia ostreae is a parasite that can be fatal for flat oysters. It has been in New Zealand since at least 2015 in the Marlborough Sounds and Nelson, but this is the first time it has been found in another area of New Zealand.

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