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Skipper sounds alarm over Bluff oysters

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  Oyster boats at Bluff's South Port. Oyster boats at Bluff's South Port. Photo: David Williams

An alarming drop in the Bluff oyster catch has prompted a veteran skipper to go public with his concerns that Foveaux Strait is being fished unsustainably. David Williams reports on Newsroom.

Over 45 years at the helm of an oyster boat, Anthony Fowler has seen it all in Foveaux Strait, including the closure and partial closure of the fishery after huge die-offs in the 1990s and 2000s. But he’s distressed by this year’s dramatic drop in catch numbers – in what is supposed to be a healthy fishery, boasting hundreds of millions of adult oysters.

“Put it this way, we’re getting half of what we caught last year,” he tells Newsroom. “Last year at this time we were getting 40 to 50 cases a day. This year we’re getting, like, 20.”

Fowler says he’s speaking publicly out of duty as kaitiaki of the Hokonui Rūnanga and to let the people of Bluff know what's happening.

When the season opened on March 1, few Bluff oysters were sent outside Southland, something that was put down to high demand.

But Fowler, who joined the Bluff oyster industry in 1968 and became a skipper four years later, says he’s never seen fishing conditions to be so bad. There’s also a high “reject” rate in the processing factories, where poor quality oysters of legal grade aren’t meeting expectations for size and colour.

Continue here to read the full Newsroom article written by David Williams |  ||  April 11 2018   |||