Editorial: Pearl of wisdom from Bluff

By Mark Story

I splashed out on Friday and bought a dozen Bluff oysters.

They'd lost none of their charm, despite being snatched from sandy digs then shucked and shipped 1338km from Foveaux Strait to Hastings.

What a success story this oyster is.

Crippled by the parasite bonamia from 2000-05, the industry was nursed back to health through the foresight of oyster dredgers who then voluntarily limited their catch to half the allowable commercial quota.

Their short-term loss was rewarded last year, with a consequent growth in the delicacy's numbers bumping the self-regulated quota of 9.53million oysters to 11.5million.

Given Hawke Bay's questionable fishing stocks, one wonders whether there's a lesson in this. It's why the word "sustainable" rankles when it's uttered by the Ministry for Primary Industries. The inference is that it's fine to push a species to the brink of extinction - and then ease off a tad.

Surely we've set our goals too low. Shouldn't "sustainable" be replaced with "healthy" or even "vigorous"?

If the Ministry continues to use this word then it's up to those whose incomes hinge on healthy stocks. This is an industry where tough crews earn honest, well-deserved money. But it's an industry that needs to cede a little ground.

The prudent gesture from the Bluff folk reminds us that quotas are a limit, not a target.

Either way, our local fleets would gain more than they lose by self-imposing a 200-metre no-fish zone from the shore. It would go some way to assuage the recreational fishing fraternity, in what's developing as an emotive clash of lifestyle versus livelihood.

As the oystermen showed, goodwill can pay a healthy dividend.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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