“the most effective way of producing maximum oyster quality ”
New Zealand Pacific Oysters are predominantly grown on sticks, trays and netting bags on intertidal farms.
While the majority of New Zealand’s 3 million dozen oysters harvested each year end up in fine dining halls across the word, the traditional farming techniques are surprisingly simple.
The process starts when baby oysters, commonly known as spat, settle on wooden sticks set by farmers in the ocean.
The wooden sticks are then nailed onto racks built so the oysters sit just above water level at low tide.
As the industry evolves, it sources an increasing proportion of spat from commercial hatcheries.
Farm site selection is critical and most are built in shallow, sheltered waters between the high and low tide marks to optimise growing conditions .
Unlike the New Zealand Greenshell Mussel, the oyster will only attach itself to a structure once, so any undersized oysters collected during harvesting, or oysters sourced from a commercial hatchery, have to be grown out in trays or netting bags.
Some New Zealand Pacific Oysters are grown in deeper waters, in trays beneath the surface, or on longlines supported by plastic floats – similar to the way Greenshell™ Mussels are grown.
New Zealand Pacific Oysters grown on intertidal farms have a slower growth rate, but their shells and abductor muscles are stronger which provides a longer shelf life for whole, live oyster markets.
Farmers with both intertidal and subtidal sites will transfer oysters between farms to optimise condition at harvesting.
New Zealand Oysters take between 12-20 months to reach ideal market size.
No feed is added to oyster farms as they are filter filters and live predominantly on plankton
A typical New Zealand Pacific Oyster farm occupies about four hectares of water space.