It’s been hot, and while the past few days have seen temperatures dip into otherwise tolerable numbers, it’s still been too warm to harvest oysters out of local waters. Oyster harvesting is typically closed June-September by the state Department of Natural Resources because of water temperatures higher than 81 degrees.
“This extended closure ensures that Georgia continues to meet the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vibrio parahaemolyticus — Vp — control plan,” Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, said in a statement. “We expect this extended closure to have little adverse impact on recreational and commercial oyster harvesters since most individuals refrain from eating freshly harvested oysters during the warmer months when the combination of spawning and warm water makes oysters less desirable as seafood.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because oysters are creatures that consume nutrients through a filter, bacteria can build up in their tissues. Also, oysters with a dangerous amount of Vibrio bacteria don’t look or smell differently than an otherwise safe oyster, and only cooking the oysters properly can kill the bacteria.
Vibriosis, the illness that can result from Vibrio bacteria, is similar in effect to the human body as cholera, and there are around 52,000 cases that emerge annually because people eat contaminated food. The specific strain of Vibrio mentioned by Guadagnoli, Vp, has an incubation period of 2-48 hours, and can cause diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain in otherwise healthy people, according to the federal food safety website foodsafety.gov. Recovery is estimated to take around three days.
DNR announced that while the closure continues to affect oysters, clams from approved areas are OK for harvesting.
“Unlike oysters, which are frequently consumed raw, clams are traditionally cooked with high heat — a process that kills the Vp bacteria,” Guadagnoli said.
Recreational oyster harvesting, when the season is open, requires a fishing license and in Glynn County is only allowed in an area south of Downing Musgrove Causeway leading to Jekyll Island.
In other announcements from DNR, the agency announced the availability of Coastal Incentive Grants, through CRD and the Georgia Coastal Management Program, for fiscal year 2019-20. Grants are available for up to $80,000 a year for projects slated for a one- or two-year span, with a one-to-one non-federal match required. Those eligible to apply include county and municipal governments, regional and state agencies, and state-affiliated educational and research institutions in the state’s 11 coastal counties.
Themes for the grants include oceans and wetlands, public access and land conservation, sustainable communities, and disaster resiliency and coastal hazards. Informational meetings are scheduled for Camden County on Oct. 9, Brunswick on Oct. 10 and Savannah on Oct. 15. Pre-applications are due by 4:30 p.m., Dec. 7.