23 Jun 2017

Oyster farmer decries $10k in shellfish wasted

9:15 am on 23 June 2017

A Stewart Island oyster farmer says it's "gut-wrenching" having to dispose of healthy oysters to stop the spread of a deadly parasite, Bonamia ostreae, to the Bluff fisheries.

Craig 'Nudge' Farmer 23/06/17

Craig 'Nudge' Farmer said it was upsetting to see the shellfish go to waste. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

RNZ News visited oyster farmer Craig 'Nudge' Farmer on board an EEC Ltd barge in Big Glory Bay, where about 4000 oysters worth $2.50 each were brought up in pallets on the deck.

Oysters pulled up from Big Glory Bay pulled onto the deck of a barge.

Oysters pulled up from Big Glory Bay are brought onto the deck of a barge Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

His crew pulled up pallets at random and shucked some to reveal perfect-looking shellfish.

"Not one dead one, all healthy," Nudge said, as he cast an eye over the stock.

"A bit annoying ... I'd like to say what I'd like to say but I can't."

Even though the oysters are fine to eat, they will all have to be destroyed.

Nudge said that reality was sobering.

Oysters pulled up from Big Glory Bay.

Oysters pulled up from Big Glory Bay Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

The future is uncertain for Nudge and his fellow crew members.

While mussel farming might survive in the bay it was the end of oyster farming there and for some that spelled the end of their employment.

Nudge said he was frustrated with MPI; it had been a month since news of the infection first broke and they only just held the first public meeting on the island.

"MPI say they're going to do this and they're going to do that but have they done it? No.

"Their communication with us has been very poor ... I haven't had one MPI person approach me on the barge to see how big an operation it's going to be.

"Especially when it's done from Wellington, half of them don't even know where Big Glory Bay is."

MPI started removing caged oysters this week and field manager Andrew Sander said the ministry had already removed about 25 tonnes of caged oysters from the bay.

Today marks the end of the first stage of its operation, and MPI is planning its second phase next week which will involve ripping out lines of mussels entwined with oysters.

Oysters pulled up from Big Glory Bay.

Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

Nudge said it would take a long time to pull everything out, with 50 lines, each 8km long.

MPI response director Geoff Gwyn said he understood the residents were angry at the time it had taken to get get top level officials to the island, but he would be back soon.

He announced yesterday MPI would accelerate its testing of Foveaux Strait oysters after islanders protested the next tests weren't due until September.

The results are due in three weeks.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs