On Friday 6 July Aotearoa Fisheries Limited completed an agreement to purchase all of Sanford’s Pacific oyster farms, which are located in Northland.
The purchase comprises 16 farms covering a total approved area of 128 hectares located in three harbours; Whangaroa, Kerikeri /Te Puna Inlets, and Houhora. Although the total approved area is 128 hectares, approximately 92 hectares are actually developed farms (i.e. have oyster growing structures built).
The Sanford farms that have been purchased are in close proximity to Pacific oyster farms that are already owned and operated by Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, particularly in Whangaroa and Houhora Harbours.
Carl Carrington, Chief Executive Officer for Aotearoa Fisheries Limited says “The purchase will make Aotearoa Fisheries the largest Pacific oyster farming, processing and exporting operation in New Zealand”.
The agreement does not include the purchase of Sanford Kaeo processing plant, which Sanford closed last December.
Don Collier Aotearoa Fisheries General Manager - Aquaculture said “Similar to the rest of the Pacific Oyster industry, the Sanford oyster farms had been badly affected by mortalities caused by OSHV-1 Oyster virus over the last two years and are therefore carrying much less stock than normal. It was therefore not commercially viable for Aotearoa Fisheries Limited to purchase and reopen the Sanford Plant in Kaeo which was closed last December.
The purchase of Sanford farms does however assist the viability of Aotearoa Fisheries current farming and harvesting operations in Northland. Our Northland operations are based at Pupuke, near Kaeo. The bulk of the oysters from the newly acquired Sanford farms will be harvested and partially processed by Aotearoa Fisheries farming crews and handling staff based at their Pupuke / Kaeo site.
The OSHV -1 Oyster virus remains a very challenging issue for all in the Pacific oyster industry. Nevertheless the purchase of the Sanford farms is an indication of Aotearoa Fisheries confidence in the future of the pacific oyster business in the medium term, not only in Northland and but also the other regions where we have a presence.
Our plans for mitigating the detrimental effects of the OSHV-1 Oyster Virus include two main strategies:
Growing more Pacific oysters in the South Island, up to juvenile stage. The oysters grown in the colder South Island waters appear to have less vulnerability to the oyster virus especially at a very young age. At around juvenile stage these oysters are then transferred to our more nutrient rich North Island harbours to grow through to maturity and to condition.
Aotearoa Fisheries are heavily engaged with other industry participants, Cawthron Research Institute, Central Government Funders (Ministry of Primary industries, Ministry of Science and innovation) and Aquaculture New Zealand in research trials which are aimed at identifying oyster family lines which have some resilience to this virus. These trials have commenced already and include breeding from survivors from the last two years virus events.
It is our expectation that it will be at least two years before we would expect to see significant commercial outcomes coming out of the research”.