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Bluff oysters are on the summer menu for last Time

Bluff oyster lovers rejoice. You’re in for a rare treat with the announcement today that a national supermarket chain is stocking about one million of the southern delicacy.

Unfortunately, it is for the last time outside the normal season.

The Woolworths and Big Fresh supermarket chains have successfully tendered for the oysters which are being fished between now and the end of the year to check quality and help spawning. The oysters are in store from today (Wednesday 22 September).

The Bluff oyster enhancement programme is held once a year in an agreement between the Ministry of Fisheries and the Bluff Oyster Management Company. This is the last time the count will be held outside the normal Bluff oyster season.

The group was established after the virus Bonamia decimated the Bluff oyster beds about seven years ago. The disease cut stocks by 70 per cent from one billion oysters to less than 300 million.

Stocks have since risen to about 600 million.

According to Warren Conway, deputy chairman of the Bluff Oyster Management Company, the fishing is necessary to do the scientific research necessary to preserve and grow the beds in Foveaux Strait.

“The mission is two-fold,” Mr Conway maintains. “We’re checking the quantity of oyster stocks to calculate numbers and plan a sustainable quota for next year.

“We’re also extracting spawn to find out how best we can ongrow the oysters onto various sub-strates. We’re also investigating why some areas of the beds are improving while others are not.”

Oyster spawn is free swimming and only a small proportion of the millions of eggs survive — one oyster can hold up to 50,000 larvae.

Big numbers of the swimming larvae, called veligers, are consumed by fish while the sessile, or small growing oysters, have a number of predators.

Not all oysters spawn and one boat will be dredging one million oysters.

Fortunately for Bluff oyster lovers, the bi-valve delicacy has to be opened to get the spawn — and that means plenty on the table between now and the end of the year or until the million are sold.

Woolworths and Big Fresh successfully tendered for the stocks. The chain will be taking delivery of about 6,000 dozen oysters every week and they will be available in their 59 supermarkets nation-wide from today, delivered fresh from Foveaux Strait every day.

The company says because it has committed to all the oysters dredged from the enhancement programme, it is able to market them at $17.95 a dozen instead of the $19.00 or thereabouts per dozen asked in previous years.

The last time the Oyster Management Company ran its programme was two years ago and this is only the fifth time it has been run.

ends

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