Coastal Georgia DNR Commissioner Mark Williams gave the following information regarding food safety and public consumption of oysters during his summer oyster harvest closure announcement.
According to Williams, Georgia’s territorial waters will close to commercial and recreational oyster harvest effective 6:00 a.m., Friday, June 1, 2018 through midnight on Sunday, September 30, 2018. A similar closure occurred in 2017 to meet the requirements of Georgia’s Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) control plan.
Vp is naturally occurring bacteria found in filter-feeding shellfish. It occurs at higher concentrations during the months of the year when coastal water temperatures are warm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration most Vp illness cases due to consumption of raw oysters are unreported. The onset of Vp illness generally occurs within three days and common symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever and chills. Thorough cooking of oysters and other shellfish will generally destroy all bacteria including Vp.
“This closure ensures that Georgia meets the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vp control plan,” explained Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division. “We expect this closure to have little adverse impact on recreational and commercial oyster harvesters since most individuals refrain from eating freshly-harvested oysters during the summer months when the combination of spawning and warm water makes oysters less desirable as seafood.”
The harvest of clams from approved shellfish harvesting areas will be permitted during the summer months. “Unlike oysters, which are frequently consumed raw, clams are traditionally cooked with high heat – a process that kills the Vp bacteria,” said Guadagnoli.
For more information on the oyster harvest closure contact GA DNR/Coastal Resources Division at 912.264.7218.