Iwi owned seafood company Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd this week signed an agreement with Cawthron Institute in respect to their Pacific oyster hatchery and oyster nursery based at Glenduan, north of Nelson.
Under the agreement Aotearoa Fisheries will take over the Pacific oyster Nursery and Spat growing operations. Three of Cawthron Institute’s staff involved in the Nursery and growing operations will be seconded to Aotearoa Fisheries.
Cawthron Institute will continue to spawn and produce Pacific oyster larvae at the site.
Aotearoa Fisheries is one of New Zealand’s largest fishing and seafood businesses and is the largest Pacific oyster company in New Zealand, trading as Kia Ora Seafoods and Pacific Marine Farms. This deal follows on from Aotearoa Fisheries acquisition of Sanford NZ Limited’s North Island Pacific oyster farms last year.
Aotearoa Fisheries General Manager of Aquaculture, Don Collier says the deal cements a long term relationship with the Cawthron Institute and made sense from two perspectives.
“First and foremost, our oyster business’ growth plans have been based on making available to our customers Pacific oysters of the highest quality.
“The oysters are bred from wild parents who have been selected for traits that enhance the “plate appeal” and demand for our oysters, much as New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural sectors have been doing for many years in their research programmes.
“This agreement will enable us to meet expected growth in demand, and provides the incentive to invest in expanding capacity at the Nelson site.
“New capital investment at the site has already begun.
“Secondly, the problems being faced by the Pacific oyster industry since 2010, in the wake of the OSHV-1 oyster virus have illustrated how vulnerable it is to be totally reliant on a natural wild catch. By applying sound science and research, coupled with flexible marine farming husbandry we get the opportunity to manage our destiny when nature throws up curve balls.”
The current research programme into developing virus resilient family lines is progressing, although it is still very much work in progress.
Collier says credit needs to be given to Cawthron Institute, who have engaged with ourselves and others in the industry in oyster breeding programmes for at least 10 years and had the foresight to invest in an oyster hatchery and nursery.
“We can now build on that investment. We will still be reliant on their expertise, however the line where decisions are made in respect to growing oyster spat to market size has moved
closer to commercial operators. This agreement enables Cawthron Institute to give more focus to its core purpose being advanced research, for which it is internationally recognised.”
Collier goes on to say that arrangements are also nearly finalised with New Zealand’ s second largest hatchery bred oyster farmer , Te Matuku Bay Oysters based on Waiheke Island, which enables them to be part of this arrangement. Te Matuku Bay are also one of the early pioneers in single seed hatchery bred oysters.
Te Matuku Bay manager Nat Upchurch says “We are delighted to be part of this relationship. In the aftermath of the oyster virus we are determined to restore confidence in supply for customers.”
Collier finished by saying that as part of the agreement with Cawthron Institute, offers of supply of nursery grown oyster spat will be made by Aotearoa Fisheries to current customers of Cawthron Institute, and also that purchases of very small oyster spat and oyster larvae directly from Cawthron Institute will still be an option available to other oyster industry participants.