Following the discovery of three oysters infected with the parasite Bonamia ostreae, Awarua Rūnanga and Biosecurity New Zealand have placed a rāhui and a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) to help protect the Foveaux Strait oyster fishery from a potential spread.
The measures create a ‘no-take’ zone around the area where oysters found to be infected with the parasite were sampled from.
The controls came into force from 2pm on 30 March for an indefinite period.
“We have partnered with Awarua Rūnanga, the oyster fishing industry, and local authorities to determine whether Bonamia ostreae is elsewhere in the Strait and jointly agree the most appropriate measures to manage the situation,” said Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Dr Catherine Duthie.
“While we carry out urgent sampling and testing of oysters from a range of Foveaux Strait locations, we have jointly agreed that it is appropriate to stop people taking oysters from the affected area.”
Both the rāhui and the CAN set out a small geographical area – a 30.9km2 area located east of Saddle Point on Stewart Island – where people cannot fish or dredge for oysters. It is determined these activities could increase the risk of spreading any disease present in the area.
Dr Duthie reassured that the controls would not affect the availability of Bluff oysters.
“The Controlled Area is small and hasn’t been fished in the past five years. There are plenty of oysters available from other areas to provide a plentiful supply.
“We can’t stress enough that Bonamia ostreae does not affect food safety and fresh Bluff oysters are safe to eat.”
She added that tests were underway on some oyster samples that have already been taken as part of a separate surveillance programme that’s run for the different type of Bonamia already present in the area (Bonamia exitiosa).
“We’re committed to working with our industry and iwi partners on this uncertain situation. We understand this may be stressful for those who derive their income from the fishery and the communities who value the taonga.”
If people need support at this time, they can contact Fisher Support Services on 0800 23 74 38 (0800 ADRIFT) anytime between 7am to 10pm. In the case of an emergency crisis, dial 111.