Māori Name: tio repe
Name Scientific: Crassostrea gigas
Availability: April to November
Attributes Length: 10–12cm, reaching 18cm
Widely distributed around the world, it has provided a foundation for oyster aquaculture and was probably an accidental import to New Zealand. The species is found largely around the north of the North Island, where it is now the main oyster farmed by aquaculture. It has spread by natural processes all around the North Island and across Cook Strait to the northern part of the South Island.
Off-white shell with bands of yellow, brown, or purple. The flesh is light-coloured and has a black mantle margin.
The Pacific oyster belongs to the Ostreidae family (oysters).
Pacific oysters spawn annually with spat settling in brackish, estuarine water. Growth is rapid and, in good conditions, the oyster can reach a meat weight of 20 grams in 15 to 18 months. This, as well as the dense spat settlement, makes the Pacific oyster suitable for aquaculture.
New Zealand Pacific oysters are widely recognised as a highly sustainable seafood. Farmed at intertidal and sub tidal sites around New Zealand, using both naturally settling and commercially produced spat, they reach market size in 12 - 20 months, feeding on naturally occurring plankton. Every oyster farm must operate in accordance with a resource consent that sets strict conditions determined and enforced by the local council. The consent is in effect a licence that tightly controls, among other things, the size of the farm, activities permitted and required monitoring. The Quota Management System does not apply to Pacific oysters; it is instead governed by provisions within the Resource Management Act and the Aquaculture Act.
The species is harvested throughout the year except in the breeding season (from December to March).
Did You Know
Pacific oysters are high in protein and essential amino acids, offering a great natural source of zinc which is crucial for a strong immune system. Five oysters will supply more than 100 percent of an adult's daily zinc requirement.
Pacific oysters are arguably best eaten fresh, raw and straight from the shell, however they can also be baked, barbequed, fried, poached, smoked, steamed, or used in a soup/chowder. Shuck fresh oysters an hour before you want to eat them and put them on ice - this will chill the oysters down and plump them up. They require very little cooking time (about 5 minutes on a barbeque or in the oven) and should be heated slowly to avoid a rubbery texture. Regardless of which cooking method you choose, the oysters are ready when the mantle starts to curl.
Shuck fresh oysters an hour before you want to eat them and put them on ice - this will chill the oysters down and plump them up. Frozen oysters should be thawed in the refrigerator. Store raw or thawed oysters in the refrigerator.