SWAKOPMUND- While Namibian oysters remain one of the most sought after culinary treats on the highly-competitive international mariculture markets, local producers are going at great lengths to meet the high demand.
In addition to the high demand abroad, producers also have to satisfy the increasing domestic consumer demand that has been pushed up by tourists visiting the country.
One of the local oyster farming enterprises, Namoyster, says tourists feast on approximately 5000 oysters monthly during boat tours that leave daily from Walvis Bay. Namibian oysters are said to be ‘meaty’ and contain intense flavour in addition to its sweet fatty taste, hence its popularity across the world.
Figures provided by Namoyster co-owner Theunis Keulder indicate that the company currently produces roughly 800 000 oysters per year on its 10 hectare fish farm.
Government has allocated 100 hectares to mariculture on which most of the country’s fishing activities take place.
Although oyster farming has boomed in recent years, it will take decades for local producers to forget the 2008 disaster that crippled the industry when 15 of the 18 oyster farms were destroyed by a devastating sulphuric eruption.
However, the 2008 disaster has seemingly not stopped Namoyster’s vivid dream to take oyster farming to greater heights.
Apart from the frequent outbreaks of harmful algae blooms as well as sulphur eruptions, Keulder said “the Namibian coastline is very productive due to the Benguela current upwelling.”
New Era was recently privileged to witness first-hand how the delicate oyster harvesting process-that is under constant threatened by sulphuric eruptions from the seabed-flourish at sea.
Namoyster, said Keulder, currently buys juvenile oyster stock from two oyster farms in Lüderitz, who in turn buy their spat from a Swakopmund operator, Richwater Oyster Company, or import oyster spat from Brazil and Chile.
“Take in mind that Namoyster has a grow-out farm in Lüderitz as well, which is operated in cooperation with Five Roses Aquaculture. At this facility, the oysters are grown to cocktail size which is about 50 to 70 grams,” he explained.
After that, the oysters are then transported to Walvis Bay and grown out in oyster baskets hanging below drums, which are in turn fastened on fishing lines, of which Namoyster has 20.
He said a single oyster can filter about 30 liters of water an hour to feast on plankton, hence the importance of efficient seawater circulation.
Due to this, the baskets in which the oysters are kept, are raised and thoroughly washed every four to six weeks to get rid of particles that can hamper the oysters from feeding.
When it comes to upholding health standards, Keulder said Namoyster has to periodically submit oyster samples to the Namibia Standards Institution (NSI), who conduct monthly tests to ascertain that heavy metals, cadmium and other marine toxins such as Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning are at acceptable levels for consumers.
“If they are above internationally agreed levels, oysters may not be harvested. In such cases Namoyster has enough stock in its tanks onshore to supply the local market, he said.
Eveline de Klerk
2019-04-10 09:25:56 6 months ago