Commissioner Mark Williams has announced that Georgia's territorial waters will reopen to commercial and recreational oyster harvest effective 6 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24. Since 2008, the Commissioner of Natural Resources has closed the salt waters of this state to the commercial and recreational harvest of oysters for human consumption from June through September to address management requirements. Due to higher than average water temperatures coastwide for the month of September, an extension of the existing closure was implemented to allow for water temperatures to decrease below the control plan threshold of 81-degrees.
“Based on recent monitoring of shellfish growing areas, water temperatures have declined and are nearing the 81-degree Fahrenheit threshold. Coastal forecasts are showing a significant cooling trend and we anticipate water temperatures to be below threshold levels by the middle of next week,” states Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division of GA DNR. This re-opening is made in accordance with current sound principles of wildlife research and management and fulfills requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
The fall and winter season when the temperatures begin to cool is when most consumers purchase shellfish. Here are a few things to remember or look for when buying oysters, clams, or mussels from seafood dealers and markets:
Only buy fresh in-shell or shucked 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.
Also, only buy shellfish that have been refrigerated or iced at 45⁰ F or less.
Shellfish should never be consumed raw by individuals that have a compromised immune system such as diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and other disorders.
Risk of illness from consuming shellfish can be significantly reduced if the product is thoroughly cooked.
If you are uncertain whether molluscan shellfish have been harvested, handled, processed, or distributed by approved licensed seafood operators contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Division at 404-657-4801 or visit the web-link www.safeoysters.org for additional information
For more information on oyster harvesting in Georgia contact GA DNR/Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218.