1 Mar 2009

Bluff oyster boats make first catch of season

12:56 pm on 1 March 2009

Easing weather conditions allowed 11 Bluff oyster boats to head out on Sunday morning to make the first catch of the season.

Barnes Oysters managing director, Graeme Wright, says weather conditions continued to improve allowing the vessels to stay out until Sunday afternoon.

He says fishers have voluntarily limited the catch for the last five seasons to 7.5 million - half the allowable total and will start this season with the same limit in place.

However, later in the season, once the final results of a National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research study are received, operators will may raise numbers they take.

Mr Wright says preliminary findings of the study, which indicate the beds are rebuilding, are encouraging.

Oyster beds rebuilding - NIWA

NIWA estimates the Bonamia outbreak killed around one billion Bluff oysters between 2000 and 2003.

Fisheries scientist Keith Michael said this year is shaping up as a much better season for oyster lovers because disease levels have been dropping off since 2005 and the oyster beds are building.

Over the two-week survey, samples are taken from more than a hundred sites in Foveaux Strait, and sent to NIWA in Wellington for analysis.

Final results from the oyster survey will be released by the Ministry of Fisheries in late April.

The oyster season runs until 31 August.