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Bluff’s best are back a month early

Issued by 141 Palace Plus for Big Fresh

Bluff’s best are back a month early

Bluff oyster lovers rejoice. Things are back to normal. Well, almost.

With the oyster beds in Foveaux Strait almost back to their best, the Bluff oyster season begins this Sunday, a month earlier than last year.

The March 5 opening brings the season back into line with the date traditional before the beds were struck by the Bonamia disease several years ago.

Again, for the fifth year in a row, Big Fresh will fly Bluff oysters around the country in its annual attempt to be the first national supermarket chain to stock Bluff’s best.

That’s the good news. Unfortunately, however, the bad news is there will be no more oysters on the market than there were last season.

The Ministry of Fisheries in Dunedin says that although the number of oysters in the Strait is back around one billion, there are a number of bare patches in the beds and other areas.

This year the harvest remains at just under 15 million for the third year in a row.

“Back in the so-called hey-days of the industry — say, in the 1970s — up to 60 million (Bluff oysters) would have been harvested in a season,” says Ministry of Fisheries policy analyst Alan Fraser.

“Those were the days when every home had a sack of oysters in its back yard every weekend.

“But, even though the beds are rebuilding, we cannot be complacent.

“The oyster industry is keen to ensure the beds survive and flourish and the fishers have put in place a number of research and enhancement measures including re-seeding and conservation,” Mr Fraser said.

Big Fresh brand manager Peter Garwood said the first shipment on Sunday would be hand delivered by a “celebrity oyster lover”.

“I’m not saying who it is just yet, but I can say we expect to have the first Bluff oysters in Christchurch Big Fresh markets before 10am Sunday and in Auckland in time for lunch.”

Mr Garwood said Big Fresh had a reputation to uphold. The company had been the first national supermarket chain to have Bluff oysters in store for the past four years.

“Our commitment to our customers is to stock only the freshest products available. And you can’t get Bluff oysters any fresher than on the season’s opening day,” Mr Garwood said. “If Bluff people can get fresh oysters on opening day we want our customers to (get them then) as well.”

Mr Garwood said he expected all 14 Big Fresh markets to be stocked with fresh Bluff oysters by late Sunday afternoon.

“How long they’ll remain in stock is anyone’s guess of course. But going by past years, you’ll have to be quick.”

Regular shipments would start arriving at Big Fresh stores from Monday, he said.

Boats fishing for Big Fresh will leave Bluff Harbour on Saturday and begin fishing immediately after midnight (March 4 / 5).

A fast delivery boat picks up a first load in the early hours of the morning and rushes the initial load back to Barnes Oysters in time to catch the day’s first commercial flight out at 7.05am.

The Bonamia virus struck the Bluff oyster beds in the early 1990s and left them decimated. Stocks dropped from more than a billion oysters to less than 300 million.

Bonamia is harmless to humans but hell on oysters so the beds were closed for three years and re-opened only in 1995.

The Bluff oyster season runs until the end of August.

ends

Issued by 141 Palace Plus for Big Fresh

Contacts:

Peter Garwood Alan Fraser David Paine
Brand Manager Policy Analyst Senior Writer
Big Fresh Ministry of Fisheries 141 Palace Plus
Mob: 025 768 073 0-3-474 0333 021 660 749
Bus: 0-9-262 6636 0-9-358 0141
Home: 0-9-817 7129 0-9578 1551

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