Awarua Rūnanga and Biosecurity New Zealand are today enacting a rāhui and a Controlled Area Notice to help protect the Foveaux Strait oyster fishery from potential spread of the parasite Bonamia ostreae, which was recently detected in the area.
The measures create a 'no-take' zone around the area where 3 oysters found to be infected with the parasite were sampled from.
Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Dr Catherine Duthie says the 2 controls are in force from 2pm today (Tuesday, 30 March) for an indefinite period.
"We have partnered with Awarua Rūnanga, the oyster fishing industry, and local authorities to determine whether Bonamia ostreae is elsewhere in the Strait and jointly agree the most appropriate measures to manage the situation.
"While we carry out urgent sampling and testing of oysters from a range of Foveaux Strait locations, we have jointly agreed that it is appropriate to stop people taking oysters from the affected area," Dr Duthie says.
Both the rāhui and the Controlled Area Notice (CAN) set out a small geographical area where people cannot fish, or dredge for oysters. It is determined these activities could increase the risk of spreading any disease present in the area.
That area is a 30.9km2 area located east of Saddle Point on Stewart Island.
"These controls will not affect the availability of Bluff oysters," says Dr Duthie.
"The Controlled Area is small and hasn't been fished in the past 5 years. There are plenty of oysters available from other areas to provide a plentiful supply.
"We can't stress enough that Bonamia ostreae does not affect food safety and fresh Bluff oysters are safe to eat."
We are testing some oyster samples that have already been taken as part of a separate surveillance programme that's run for the different type of Bonamia already present in the area (Bonamia exitiosa).
"We're committed to working with our industry and iwi partners on this uncertain situation. We understand this may be stressful for those who derive their income from the fishery and the communities who value the taonga."
If people need support at this time, they can contact Fisher Support Services on 0800 23 74 38 (0800 ADRIFT) anytime between 7am to 10pm. In the case of an emergency crisis, dial 111.