The beds have taken a huge thrashing over the years and as well as the commercial and recreational take, have been decimated by disease. The good news is they are making a comeback and oysters are still enjoyed today, although you need to take out a mortgage for a decent feed of the Bluff oysters! No trip to the Deep South is ever complete without a feed of oysters, washed down with a Monteiths or a Speights Old Dark. Traditionally oysters have been associated with stout – it’s an English thing – but they match well with some of our home-grown darker beers.
Recreational dredgers and divers can access the beds and if you are lucky enough to count such a person among your crew or circle of friends, look after them: they are worth their weight in gold!
The good news is that while the native oyster is less plentiful, the Pacific oyster is now grown commercially as part of our growing aquaculture industry. One suggestion is that Pacific oysters were introduced to New Zealand from Japan when parts for the Auckland harbour bridge were brought here. They took a liking to our nutrient-rich waters and soon became well established, to the point of creating a nuisance in some waterways where their sharp shells cut nets and unwary feet alike.
Pacific oysters are readily available in New Zealand, courtesy of the aquaculturists, at a price most can afford.
Like most shellfish, oysters are as good raw, straight out of the shell, as they are cooked. In their prime they produce a bittersweet tingling on taste buds. Oysters also feature in drinks – cocktails, commonly known as ‘shooters’, served in concoctions involving vodka and tomato juice.