7 Dec 2011

Oyster farmers seek alternative work

12:42 pm on 7 December 2011

Northland oyster farmers and their employees are looking for jobs elsewhere as the industry teeters on the brink of collapse.

A herpes virus that's attacked young Pacific oysters over the past two summers is killing up to 95% of spat, leaving farmers with almost nothing to sell.

The virus has infected about two-thirds of all marine farms, from Parengarenga in the Far North to Whakatane and Kaipara harbour on the west coast, devastating the industry, which is worth $30 million per year.

Oyster Industry Association president Callum McCallum of Clevedon Coast Oysters says oyster farming is the main employment option in the Far North.

He has lost 80% of his stock for the past two years and cut nearly half his 40 employees.

''It's really knocked the socks off us,'' he said.

Sanford on Monday announced the closure of its oyster processing plant in Kaeo as a result of the declining number of oysters, putting fifteen permanent employees and about fifty seasonal personnel out of work.