Surge in Pacific Oyster Deaths Prompts New Zealand Probe of North Beaches

New Zealand is investigating a surge in deaths of Pacific oysters in marine farms on the nation’s North Island.

Some farmers have seen the mortality rate of young oysters more than triple since mid-November, Biosecurity New Zealand said in a statement today. About 250 samples from farms around the nation’s northern coast will be analyzed to determine the cause of the deaths, it said.

Death rates for cultivated Pacific oysters are typically no more than 10 percent, Aquaculture New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Mike Burrell said in the statement. This year the rate at some farms has varied between 30 percent and 80 percent, “which is very concerning for the industry,” he said.

New Zealand’s oyster industry was worth NZ$26 million ($20 million) in 2009, Adam Hicks, a spokesman for Nelson-based Aquaculture New Zealand, said in a telephone interview.

No problems with other oyster varieties, including Bluff oysters, have been detected and New Zealand’s Food Safety Authority has no concerns with the nation’s oysters, Biosecurity New Zealand said.

To contact the reporter for this story: Phoebe Sedgman in Wellington at psedgman2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Iain Wilson iwilson2@bloomberg.net

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