Oyster supply enough, but quality disappoints

    Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters manager Graeme Wright.

    BLUFF oyster boat skippers seem to be dealing with a case of quality versus quantity.

    The season started a week ago as boats dredged the oysters from Foveaux Strait and shops across the region sold the delicacies.

    However, some people spoken to by the Southland Express during the weekend complained about the size and quality of the oysters this season.

    Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters manager Graeme Wright said about 11,000 dozen oysters were processed in his factory last week.

    While there was a good number of oysters at sea, the quality was not as good as they had wished for, he said.

    “We certainly did not have any oysters rejected. But it is certainly true to say so far the oyster quality is not as good as it normally would be.

    “There are a good number of oysters there, but they are not as grown as they could be at this time of the year.”

    Mr Wright said this was normal and common as it was a wild fishery industry.

    “The oysters can’t swim or move, they rely on the plankton to be in the water… Water levels can also be an influence.

    “There are millions of little baby oysters there and we haven’t seen that for long time, but for some reason the adult oysters are not as big as could be at this time of the year.”

    He said there was no sign of parasites in the fishery or the oysters dredged, but his company was waiting for results to confirm this.

    Mr Wright said skippers had been out on good days to dredge the best crops, but about 30% to 40% of the oysters were being placed as second-grade oysters.

    “Some years you get a good crop, some years you don’t, but this can change overnight. I’ve been around for 25 years and I have seen this before.

    “At this stage, the quality has been a bit disappointing but I can assure you the taste was still delicious.”

    Retail shops across the region said they were not experiencing any rejection of the oysters, but one manager, who asked to not be identified, believed the quality was average.

    In the meantime, results from the spring survey undertaken by the Ministry for Primary Industries in November-December last year have confirmed six wild oysters from Big Glory Bay in Stewart Island were infected with the oyster parasite Bonamia ostreae.

    A Biosecurity New Zealand spokesman believed this latest discovery did not increase the risk of the parasite spreading to the Bluff oyster fishery as there was no detection of Bonamia ostreae in the remaining sites tested around Stewart Island, Foveaux Strait, Bluff, Tasman Bay, Cloudy Bay or the Chatham Islands.