MPI announces plan to prevent oyster parasite from spreading

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Bluff Oyster Management Company operations manager Graeme Wright on the floor of Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters.

ALL flat oyster stocks in Stewart Island’s Big Glory Bay marine farms are to be removed to prevent a lethal parasite spreading to the Bluff wild oyster population, the Ministry for
Primary Industries (MPI) has announced.

An MPI spokeswoman said staff met with the affected farmers yesterday to determine how the removal of the oysters would be done.

The plan would be finalised this week, and the uplift of the oysters expected to begin early next week. It would be a “massive logistical exercise” to remove the thousands of tonnes of oysters, she said.The affected farmers would be able to claim compensation under the Biosecurity Act, she said.

“Under the Biosecurity Act, no one should be better off or worse off as a result of a biosecurity incident.”

MPI director readiness and response services Geoff Gwyn said science had strongly guided the decision.

“The epidemiology of Bonamia ostreae, and the proximity of the two affected marine farms to others, means there is a strong risk of spread to those farms, and increasing the threat to the wild population. Removing all flat oyster stocks from the marine farms in Big Glory Bay significantly reduces this risk.

“We’re confident that the movement controls already in place have given us the time to get this next stage right.”

Flat oyster stocks in Marlborough marine farms will also be removed.

“We appreciate this isn’t positive news for [the affected Big Glory Bay and Marlborough marine farmers]. We would like to thank them for their input and co-operation to date,” Mr Gwyn said.

MPI announced last month Bonamia ostreae had been detected in two oysters farms in Big Glory Bay. It was the first time it had been found in another area in New Zealand since it was first detected in the Marlborough Sounds and Nelson in 2015.

It is fatal to flat oysters, but is not harmful to humans.

Oyster management supports culling stock

A CONTROLLED area notice remains in place legally restricting movements of some shellfish
species, including their spat, into and out of Nelson, Marlborough Sounds and Stewart Island.

It also restricts movements of farm equipment and vessels associated with shellfish within and out of Stewart Island to limit further spread.

So far, extensive sampling has not found the parasite in the Foveaux Strait fishery.

Bluff Oyster Management Company operations manager Graeme Wright said MPI’s decision was an important first step to protect the Foveaux Strait fishery.

“It is pretty devastating news for the farmers… but they are as concerned about the Bluff fishery as everyone else.

“We will support MPI… and keep on their tail regarding the urgency of the problem.”

 

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