Farm­ers want an­swers to par­a­site prob­lem

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - JEF­FREY KITT AND DAVE NI­COLL

An­gry oys­ter farm­ers caught in a biose­cu­rity scare are de­mand­ing to know how a deadly par­a­site es­caped quar­an­tine in Marl­bor­ough.

The dis­cov­ery of the par­a­site Bon­amia os­treae on Ste­wart Is­land last month prompted a mass re­moval of farms, threat­en­ing the Bluff oys­ter in­dus­try.

The spread of in­fec­tion has been con­sid­ered a se­ri­ous threat to flat oys­ters, also known as Bluff oys­ters, since it was found in the Marl­bor­ough and Nel­son ar­eas in 2015.

Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries staff faced a tense com­mu­nity meet­ing in Bluff last Wed­nes­day, with res­i­dents say­ing the min­istry should have dealt with the par­a­site two years ago when it was first dis­cov­ered.

Min­istry readi­ness and re­sponse man­ager Ge­off Gwyn told the meet­ing when Bon­amia was first dis­cov­ered, the min­istry felt the con­trolled area no­tice, per­mit­ting process and test­ing regime put in place were suf­fi­cient to man­age the risk. ’’I still have some con­fi­dence that wasn’t a bad call.’’

The min­istry started to re­move more than 4000 tonnes of the sought-af­ter shell­fish from Ste­wart Is­land last Mon­day.

The oys­ters were up­lifted by crane, then se­curely trans­ported by boat and trucked to a land­fill in Bluff.

The re­moval was hoped to pre­vent the spread of in­fec­tion across Foveaux Strait and into the wild oys­ter pop­u­la­tion.

A sim­i­lar re­moval no­tice had been is­sued for 10 Marl­bor­ough farms and was still be­ing worked out be­tween the min­istry and farm­ers.

A min­istry spokesman said it re­mained un­known how many oys­ters needed to be re­moved from farms in Marl­bor­ough. The farms were based in Port Un­der­wood and Oys­ter Bay in Tory Chan­nel.

Kono chief ex­ec­u­tive Rachel Taulelei said their team was work­ing with the min­istry on how Marl­bor­ough marine farms would be im­pacted by the dis­cov­ery of the par­a­site at Ste­wart Is­land.

‘‘[The min­istry’s] fo­cus cur­rently is on the Ste­wart Is­land marine farms where the risk to the wild oys­ter pop­u­la­tion in Foveaux Strait is the great­est,’’ she said.

The min­istry met with Marl­bor­ough oys­ter farm­ers to dis­cuss the re­moval no­tice two weeks ago.

The meet­ing in­cluded dis­cus­sion on the po­ten­tial for com­pen­sa­tion and the science be­hind the de­ci­sion, the min­istry spokesman said.

Green­shell mus­sels and rock oys­ters were not af­fected by Bon­amia os­treae, but could carry and trans­mit it to flat oys­ters.

There was no food safety is­sue from eat­ing oys­ters with the par­a­site, the spokesman said.

PHOTO: FAIR­FAX NZ

Flat oys­ters, also known as Bluff oys­ters, will be re­moved from the Sounds as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure against the spread of the par­a­site Bon­amia os­treae.

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