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Harvest from the sea

Screened May 12, 2007.

'Harvest from the Sea'

The McCallum family of Clevedon has been involved with the sea for four generations, but their latest venture - growing oysters - is taking them in a new and profitable direction.

The rural downturn of the 1980s forced Callum McCallum to look beyond the family's sheep and beef farm for new sources of income.

Native oysters always grew well in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf next to their farm, so he and his father John decided to try aquaculture.

What started as a part-time venture has now turned into a successful export business, employing 40 people and producing nearly five million oysters a year.

The McCallum family has lived near Clevedon, south-east of Auckland, since 1892.  Aside from farming, their other ventures have included coastal shipping and a quarry on Karamuramu Island.

But their move into aquaculture has rapidly become their most successful enterprise and Callum is now a passionate advocate for the industry.

He says oyster and mussel farms aren't suitable for areas which have high recreational use - but he believes many of our waterways are ideal for aquaculture, which could easily earn the country hundreds of millions more export dollars.

Although New Zealand's unpolluted waters make it perfectly suited for aquaculture, planning restrictions are too tight and are preventing expansion, Callum says.

As a result, many New Zealand aquaculture farmers are looking off-shore, especially to Australia.

The McCallums are now a significant player in New Zealand's $30 million oyster export industry.  They farm Pacific oysters, which are one of three types that grow in our waters.

Bluff oysters are fished mainly in Foveaux Strait and are a rare delicacy, available only during the autumn.  Farming of native rock oysters took off in the 1970s, but they've since been replaced by Pacific oysters in most commercial enterprises.

The Pacific oyster is a new arrival.  It's thought to have reached New Zealand on barges that brought out sections of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the 1950s.

It has become the cornerstone of the oyster farming industry because it is bigger and grows faster than the native rock oyster.

Callum McCallum talked to Country Calendar reporter Jerome Cvitanovich about the risks of pollution for his oysters and how he avoids the dangers.  To hear this interview and see underwater footage that doesn't appear in the TV show click on the related video link above.