The state is putting new measures into effect this spring to reduce people’s chances of getting sick from consuming oysters.
The Division of Marine Fisheries announced that while the state’s public health record concerning shellfish-related illnesses is one of the best in the country, the number of Vibrio cases nationwide had increased in recent years. Vibrio are naturally occurring bacteria in coastal waters that can cause illness in humans if precautions are not taken during the warmer months of the year.
The new regulations also will bring the state into conformity with guidance from the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, which is the federal, state and industry cooperative program recognized by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption.
The changes include the following new requirements to:
- Shade oysters harvested between May 1 and Oct. 14. This involves providing shade over harvested oysters or covering the oysters with a light-colored tarp or other nontoxic material while they are stored on the vessel, floating container when the oysters are not submerged, or a vehicle (this is already required for the harvest of clams in the summer).
- Resubmerge oysters exposed to the air for greater than five hours between May 1 and Oct. 14 (this might occur during air-drying or de-fouling with gear such as OysterGro). The oysters must remain submerged for at least 14-days to abate Vibrio levels that may have been elevated.
- Clarify that when working in intertidal waters the term “start of harvest” begins when the oyster is first exposed by the receding tide.
- Clarify the tagging procedures when oysters leave the lease for tumbling or culling.
- Resubmerge oysters moved from one growing area to another for at least 21 days prior to harvest (Certified shellfish dealers with a wet storage permit are exempt). This may prevent the closure of multiple growing areas in the event of an illness outbreak.
Previously implemented regulations pertaining to recording the start of harvest on the harvest tag and delivering the oysters to a licensed dealer within a specified time remain in effect.
For more information, contact Shannon Jenkins, chief of the division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Quality Section at 252-808-8148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.