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Special Permits for Oyster Farmers Hit by Virus

24 May 2013

NEW ZEALAND - Special permits can now be issued to some oyster farmers whose businesses have been affected by the oyster herpes virus to gather wild (feral) Pacific oysters, which will come as a great relief to the local oyster industry.

Mike Sabin, MP for Northland commented: “I have had a number of meetings with Northland oyster farmers over the past 18 months and have a great deal of empathy for their plight, with this virus devastating their spawning stock and putting the industry on its knees, so this decision will be a real boost for local farmers.“ 

“Famers raised the question with me of harvesting feral oysters as a potential means for them to remain viable while solutions to the virus were being developed, something I talked over with the Minister and officials.

“As it currently stands, oyster farmers are only able to gather feral oysters if they have a commercial fishing permit, something that they explained to me wasn’t a workable fit for their scenario and wasn’t viable given their difficult financial situation.

“I am pleased to announce that the Minister for Primary Industries (MPI), Nathan Guy has approved a new special purpose permit under section 97(1)(c) of the Fisheries Act 1996 enabling MPI to issue special permits to oyster farmers to collect feral oysters and transfer them onto their marine farms, for later re-harvest and sale," said Mr Sabin.

The decision follows consultation with Maori and other affected stakeholders, Mr Sabin saying the permits will be valid for three years to allow the oyster industry to recover from the impacts of the virus and the permit would still be subject to food safety requirements.

“In approving the special permit purpose, Minister Guy acknowledged the unusual and special circumstances of this particular situation, providing a cost effective mechanism for farmers to recover while they try to rebuild their industry.

“I am also very glad to see that MPI will waive the special permit application fee, which will further assist oyster farmers through this difficult period, something I also see is in the public interest given the important role this industry plays in Northland’s economy. I am very pleased at this outcome,” Mr Sabin said.

As part of the special permit application process, MPI will consult with local iwi on individual applications.

Last year the Northland MP also hosted a meeting with local oyster farmers, inviting the previous Minister for Primary industries to look in detail at the problem and was delighted when the Ministry awarded $407,000 for the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) to the Oyster Industry Modernisation Project which was working to develop a selective breeding programme on behalf of the industry.

Click here for Special permit information sheet

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