I have tried them several times but I am still amazed how many people seem to love oysters. I am sure many people only eat them because they are expensive and considered a delicacy. On the other hand I know that I love quite some foods which make other people cringe. So let’s not discuss if oysters are delicious or not. Let me just tell you that Bluff is the place to be if you love oysters.
Bluff harbour is also home to the Foveaux Strait oyster fleet. Bluff oysters are – as those who love them say - renowned for their succulence and flavour, and this is celebrated at the annual Bluff Oyster Festival. On this occasion people swallow dozens of this slimy delicacy and wash them down with champagne, and helicopters get ready to chopper them as fresh as possible to the chic-eria in Auckland where they need even more champagne to celebrate the occasion.
Some say that Bluff oysters are the finest in the world. They are grown slowly in the cold clean waters of Foveaux Strait.
The season is, as you can guess from the date of the festival, in New Zealand’s autumn and winter (1 March to 1 August). At this time you can also get oyster pies in Bluff’s cafés, alongside muttonbird pies… ;-)))
The following text about the history of oystering is from the official Bluff website:
“Oystering first began commercially at Stewart Island in the 1860s. Coastal cutters were simply beached on the beds at high tide and the oysters shovelled aboard as the tide dropped. The catch was transported in the shell to the mainland and right from the outset demand was so high that within a few years the beds were exhausted. Depleting beds caused the closure of the harvesting in 1877. In 1879 new larger beds were discovered in deeper water and the centre of activity gradually shifted from Stewart Island to Bluff.
Although commonly known as the Bluff oyster, it is known by others names, including mud oyster, flat oyster, dredge oyster, Foveaux Strait oyster and deep water oyster.The species is actually found throughout New Zealand, but is most common in the south.
A quota system was introduced in 1963, the twelve oyster boats then engaged in the industry being set a limit of 170,000 sacks per season (each sack containing, on average, 800 oysters). The quota was progressively reduced until in 1970 with 23 boats operating, it was 115,000 or 5000 per boat (in eating terms that equates to two dozen oysters for every man, woman and child in the country). Seasons were relatively good until the 1986/87 season when the beds were struck by the parasitic protozoan Bonamia. This caused the oysters to become watery and black. Because of the Bonamia the season was ceased in 1991 and did not reopen until 1994 with a limited quota and fewer boats.
When oystering first began it was a race to get the first oysters back to the wharf. Today some boats are met by helicopters who whisk the oysters away to be distributed throughout the country.”
The Oyster Festival 2012 takes place on 26 May.
Please check out the dates for the following years on the official festival website (as I am sure that I will not think of updating this tip every year – unless they succeed in relocating the Bluff Oyster Festival to Invercargill or even Auckland!!!). There you also find the places where you can buy tickets. They are highly sought after, so buy them in advance to ensure you do not miss out.
Ticket price (for 2012): NZ$ 18, children (12 and under) NZ$ 5
The Bluff Oyster & Southland Seafood Festival is an annual event usually held on Foreshore road in Bluff, showcasing an array of local Southland seafood, fine wine and entertainment.
Local restaurants and community groups offer a vast selection of fresh, succulent seafood. Stallholders mainly use locally grown and produced products, allowing everyone to enjoy a unique taste of Southland.
In 2002 and again in 2003, the outdoor site in Bluff suffered severe damage due to high winds, with many marquees being totally destroyed. This has left the committee no alternative but to source an indoor venue.
In 2004 the festival will be held indoors, with the preferred option being indoors in Bluff. The Bluff community board are working hard on providing a suitable venue and things are looking very promising. However, if the venue in Bluff is not available for April 2004, the festival will be held in the Wrightson Wool store in Invercargill. This would be a temporary measure as it is still intended that the festival be held in Bluff.
There are a lot of events held in Bluff over the span of a year. The major events being, Southlands biggest fishing contest, the Stabi-Craft Fishing Tournament and Gala Day at Bluff Harbour, held 14-16th March 2003 and The Bluff Oyster and Southland Seafood Festival, 26th April 2003.