Ingrid Jellick

It was smooth sailing during the inaugural harvest from New Zealand's first commercial open ocean marine farm off the coast of Ōpōtiki.

50 tonnes of green lip mussels were brought to shore, following a blessing by a local Kaumatua.

For the Chair of Whakatōhea Mussels, Ian Craig, it was the culmination of 16 years work.


"This is a really special day out here," he said.

The 3,800-hectare farm, is the largest consented water space in New Zealand. And, Whakatohea Mussels is confident it is a sustainable industry.

"A lot of environmental questions were asked of us and we answered them," Whakatohea Mussels' Operations Manager Peter Vitasovich said.

The marine farm is an important part of Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board's wider vision.

"We want our people back home and what part of that means: providing the opportunity for them to come home to. So this is really a fantastic opportunity. And I give thanks to our Kaumatua that started this road," CEO Dickie Farrar said.

The mussels in the first harvest are too big for international export, but size is not a problem for local retailers.

"I see huge mussels, no barnacles and really fat. Like they're beautiful mussels. The best I've seen on a long time," Owner of New World Opotiki Jimmy Heal said.

Whakatōhea hope this is only the beginning. Once there is critical mass they plan to build a processing factory that will employ a couple of hundred people.

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