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Southern Clams Plans to Diversify with Bluff Oysters

Southern Clams Media Release Wednesday 17 April 2013

Southern Clams Plans to Diversify with Bluff Oysters in Otago Harbour

Within twelve months, Dunedin restaurants, could be serving live oysters on the shell straight from Otago Harbour. The plan is the brainchild of Southern Clams who have identified a unique opportunity to diversify their shellfish operations by utilising the certified growing waters of Otago Harbour.

In a consent application to the Otago Regional Council, tabled today, Southern Clams is proposing to take two year old oysters, which have been farmed by New Zealand’s Bluff Oyster Company (NZBO) in Bluff Harbour, and re-lay them in Otago Harbour for up to four weeks, until they meet statutory regulations for commercial harvest.

At present the quality of water in Bluff Harbour is ‘restricted’, which means that no shellfish can be taken for direct sale. The level of non-compliance is extremely limited but falls short of the very strict regulations. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise put NZBO in touch with Southern Clams to help solve this problem.

Last year Southern Clams ran a successful experimental trial in Otago Harbour. Five different batches of oysters were placed in the certified growing water areas, and after a period of 2-4 weeks, each batch, after being removed from the harbour met the standard of approval for sale.

If Southern Clams is given consent for its new aquaculture activities, it expects that in 2014, 1.5 million oysters would be handled over a period of 9 months. This would increase the company’s workload by 30% in turn increasing employment. It will also mean that farmed Bluff Oysters will be a new, in–shell product, for international markets. They have not been exported since the nineteenth century.

The oysters would arrive in Dunedin in a contained form and would remain contained during their time in the Harbour. The process would most likely involve a suspended basket system on-line which is a standard industry tool. The oysters can be laid in low tide areas but would be better suited to deep water areas where their presence would be marked by flotation buoys. No oysters would be in the harbour during the main recreational months of December, January and February. While an area of 20-25 hectares, 0.5% of the total Harbour space, is required for the aquaculture, less than five hectares would be used at any one time.

Southern Clams’ Managing Director Roger Belton says the proposed diversification has great synergy with its existing operations.

“Our staff are specialists in handling live shellfish and we have high credibility for our product in niche export markets. It really makes good sense and represents a very good use of a natural resource, namely the certified growing waters in the harbour.

“What we are proposing to do will not result in any depletion of the harbour, which is consistent with our sustainable production approach and the presence of this indigenous species, the flat oyster, is actually likely to enhance the marine ecosystem of the harbour encouraging a greater diversity of marine life.”

NZBO Director, Lindsey Topp, says the proposed joint venture with Southern Clams will provide more than just a cost effective solution to meeting food safety standards.

“Our company specialises in hatching spat and growing oysters. Southern Clams brings to this their expertise in handling and processing live shellfish plus their brand and market position in export markets. It’s a very exciting collaboration.”

Today’s announcement by Southern Clams also marks the beginning of its consultation process with Otago Harbour Stakeholders. Roger Belton says that the consultation process will be held over the next six months with all stakeholders. The application can be modified in light of feedback received with the view to the consent being granted by 1st March 2014.

ENDS

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