The oyster harvesting season has been suspended due to the countrywide lockdown, leaving dozens of boats anchored for at least four weeks.
“People will need to behave and follow the government’s advice on the lockdown if they want to eat some oysters this year,” Skeggs’ skipper John Edminist was quoted as saying by Otago Daily Times.
The season began on 1 March, and Edminist says the oyster industry would have been able to catch 25% of the quota.
Although oysters could be harvested if commercial fisheries registered with Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and had an appropriate plan to manage the risks of COVID-19 transmission, the oyster industry decided to voluntarily pause the harvest in the last week of March.
“MPI requires assurances from industries and businesses that processes protect workers and the public by reducing the potential spread of COVID-19,” an MPI representative said.
“The transmission risk rises with the number of staff on-site.”
While it was too early to determine the impact of COVID-19 on the fishery industry, oysters could still be exported if the necessary process was followed, MPI said.
The season is due to end in August, and currently, there are no plans in place to extend it, the MPI added, however, it was an “ever-evolving situation”.
The annual Bluff Oyster festival for this year was also cancelled earlier following the government’s decision on mass gatherings. Refunds are available and information can be found on the festival’s official website.