Oyster industry given funding boost

By Ben Chapman-Smith

New Zealand's oyster industry has been decimated by a herpes virus in the past two years. Photo / Alan Gibson
New Zealand's oyster industry has been decimated by a herpes virus in the past two years. Photo / Alan Gibson

Kiwi oyster farmers are hoping a boost in funding from the Government will help the industry fight back from a two-year fight with a herpes virus.

The newly formed Ministry for Primary Industries has awarded $407,000 for the Oyster Industry Modernisation Project, co-ordinated jointly between Aquaculture New Zealand and New Zealand Oyster Industry Association.

New Zealand's oyster industry is struggling to bounce back from the OSHV1 virus which has decimated the wild juvenile oysters on which farming is based, said Callum McCallum, Oyster Industry Association chairman.

McCallum said funding from the Ministry's Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) was great news for oyster farmers and a strong show of support from Government.

"Industry has worked with Government to identify the virus and find ways to manage around it since it was first diagnosed in November 2010."

Extra funding will enable the industry ramp up efforts to combat the virus, he said.

"The SFF Funding enables the oyster industry to continue and intensify selective breeding, but also bring changes to the way that oysters are farmed, so as to manage around and minimise oyster losses due to the virus."

Work will be done primarily at the Cawthron Institute's Nelson Shellfish Research Hatchery and on industry farms in Auckland, Coromandel and Northland.

Current oyster production is approximately one-third of 2009 production levels, which was worth $30 million in annual sales, McCallum said.

Four aquaculture projects were granted funding from the SFF, the first time the aquaculture sector has been able to apply following the creation of a merged ministry.

The three other approved projects were the Blue Mussel Over-Settlement Project (Marine Farming Association), the Environmental Certification for New Zealand Aquaculture (Aquaculture New Zealand), and the Kaitaia Spat Working Group Project (Marine Farming Association).

Overall, 61 projects were granted funding from the SFF, with a total allocation of about $8 million over three years.

Aquaculture New Zealand AQNZ chairman Peter Vitasovich said the funding success showed aquaculture was being acknowledged as a significant, sustainable primary industry.

"The funding makes it possible for the industry to invest further in delivering economic, environment and social benefits, through independent environmental certification, selective breeding of oysters, as well as work with spat and blue mussels," Vitasovich said.

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