Thousands of tonnes of Stewart Island oysters are destined for a landfill after a “huge” decontamination operation began today.
The operation aimed to prevent the Bonamia ostreae parasite spreading from oyster farms at Stewart Island’s Big Glory Bay to Bluff’s wild oyster beds.
The Ministry for Primary Industries is also planning more community meetings this week, in Stewart Island and Bluff, to address lingering public concern over the threat posed by the oyster-killing parasite.
The initiatives came weeks after the parasite was detected in oysters at Big Glory Bay, prompting fears it could spread across Foveaux Strait and into Bluff’s wild beds.
MPI responded by confirming all Stewart Island oysters would have to be removed, meaning at least 4000 to 6000 tonnes of the tasty molluscs would be pulled up.
MPI readiness and response director Geoff Gwyn outlined the details of the oyster removal operation in a statement yesterday.
The oysters would be lifted by crane and transported by boat and truck to a landfill in Bluff, where they would be disposed of.
The oysters would be disinfected and wrapped before being moved, to prevent contamination of surfaces during transport, as would the vessels themselves, to ensure there was no infected material on the side of the vessel.
Vessels transporting oysters would also take “an indirect route” from Stewart Island, to avoid passing near Bluff oyster beds in Foveaux Strait and sites of significance to local iwi.
There would be further cleaning of vessels and trucks at Bluff, before the oysters were moved to the landfill.
Once there, the oysters would be “quickly buried under lime and dirt to provide protection from vermin and ensure rapid decomposition”, he said.
Trucks will be cleaned again before leaving the landfill.
Mr Gwyn said the Ministry acknowledged the “strong feeling” about the parasite threat, and the measures aimed to minimise the risk of its spread.
Community meetings scheduled for Stewart Island on Tuesday, and Bluff the following day, were a chance to learn more about the removal operation and the parasite, he said.
“We’re continuing to work with affected local farmers, but we’re also very conscious of the concerns of the wider community in Stewart Island and Southland about the impact of the disease and the removal of the farms.
“We’re keen to work with the communities to address these concerns.”
MPI officials said last week the “best-case scenario” was the removal operation would take two weeks to complete, but possibly longer, depending on weather. Otago Daily Times