BRUNSWICK — Georgia waters will reopen to commercial and recreational oyster harvest effective 7 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Following an announcement by state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams in May, oyster harvest in state waters was prohibited from June 1 through midnight Sept. 30 to meet the requirements of Georgia’s Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) control plan. Vp is naturally occurring bacteria found in filter-feeding shellfish at higher concentrations during the months of the year when water temperatures are warm.
“The four-month closure ensures that Georgia meets requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health during the summer months, when Vp levels are typically the highest of the year,” said Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division. “As water temperatures begin to drop in October, the Vp levels will decline and the risk lessens. Traditionally, most consumers purchase live oysters during the cooler months, so commercial shellfish harvesters are fully supportive of this seasonal closure.”
Sandy Shepherd with the Seafood Safety Office of the Georgia Department of Agriculture offered some advice to those looking to have shellfish as part of their seafood diet.
“Only buy fresh in-shell oysters, clams, or mussels from a licensed retail or wholesale seafood dealer that has product properly tagged with a harvest location, dealer name and date,” Shepherd said. “Likewise, when buying in-shell processed or shucked oysters, clams or mussels ensure that the product has been processed by a certified dealer with the name, address, and dealer certificate number on the tag or label.”
Those uncertain whether molluscan shellfish have been harvested, handled, processed or distributed by approved licensed seafood operators can call the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Seafood Safety Office at 912-963-2500 or the Food Safety Division at 404-656-3621. Go to www.safeoysters.org for additional information.
For more information about oyster harvesting in Georgia, contact the Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218.