Killer parasite puts Stewart Island's oyster farming industry in jeopardy

Oyster farmers off Stewart Island have had their worst fears confirmed in the battle against a killer parasite.

Officials say if the wild oysters in Fouveax Strait are to be protected, farmed oysters may never be allowed to return to the Island.

For the Bluff Oyster Company, a farming business with twenty-million oysters, it is a death sentence. 

"This is the end of our business. We've effectively shut down our hatchery, our nursery, our breeding programmes - our genetic line's been destroyed," says Bluff Oyster farmer Rodney Clark.

The Ministry for Primary Industries ordered the oyster farms in Big Glory Bay to be dismantled after the discovery of the parasite, known as 'bonamia ostreae'.

It is said to kill oysters and is difficult to remove. Now, MPI has confirmed the farms will not be allowed to return in a bid to protect the wild oyster fishery in Foveaux Strait. 

"The reality is that, unless we have the ability to breed a more resilient oyster, and that's a big if it's unlikely that they'll ever go back to Big Glory Bay," says Geoff Gwyn, spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The news is devastating for the pioneers Rodney and Danette Clark, who say they've lost up to twenty-million oysters.

This will likely cost jobs and result in financial losses. 

Mr Clark added the emotional toll this took on him, adding, "when the last oyster cage came up, all of our staff had tears in their eyes. Every single one of them. And so did I, I choked up."

While the Clarks can claim compensation, the business has nowhere to go. 

The killer parasite is predicted to finish off the oyster farming industry off Stewart Island.


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