Georgia Department of Natural Resources will close commercial and recreational oyster harvesting at 6 a.m. today through midnight Sept. 30.
“This closure ensures that Georgia meets new requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health by implementing a Vp control plan,” State Shellfish Program Manager Dominic Guadagnoli said.
Vp is naturally occurring bacteria found in filter-feeding shellfish. It occurs at higher concentrations during the months of the year when water temperatures are warm.
“During the months of June through September, estuarine water temperatures usually exceed 81 degrees Fahrenheit,” Guadagnoli said. “This is a threshold temperature established by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program for determining risk associated with Vp. Since Coastal Georgia water temperatures meet or exceed this threshold, DNR is implementing a Vp-management-control plan.”
Other South Atlantic states also will implement similar controls to address their specific Vp-management issues.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, most Vp illness cases due to consumption of raw oysters are underreported. 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 generally will destroy all bacteria, including Vp.
Commercial oyster harvesters long have been aware of the potential for Vp problems associated with oyster harvest and consumption during the warmer months. They fully support the planned closure according to Guadagnoli, who met with all commercial shellfish leaseholders in April to discuss this issue.
For more information on the shellfish closure, call the GA DNR/Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218.