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Shellfish harvesting re-opened
Oyster and other shellfish harvesting had been closed for fear of contamination in the wake of Hurricane Irma. - photo by File photo

BRUNSWICK — Georgia’s territorial waters re-opened to commercial and recreational shellfish harvest Saturday.

GA DNR Commissioner Mark Williams closed shellfish harvest in state waters on Sept. 9 in anticipation of the impact from Hurricane Irma and in the interest of protecting public health.

“The predicted impacts from Hurricane Irma included heavy rains and larger than normal tidal surges that could have resulted in elevated bacterial levels from run off into the growing areas,” Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division of DNR, said. “Post-Irma testing of territorial waters has been completed and water quality and shellfish meat samples are below bacterial threshold levels and safe for harvest.”

The fall and winter season when the temperatures begin to cool is when most consumers buy shellfish. Here are a few things to remember or look for when buying oysters, clams or mussels from seafood dealers and markets:

· Buy fresh, in-shell oysters, clams, or mussels only from a licensed retail or wholesale seafood dealer that has product properly tagged with a harvest location, dealer name and date. 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.

· Also, buy shellfish that only have been refrigerated or iced at 45 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, Seafood Safety Office at 912-963-2500 or the Food Safety Division at 404-656-3621 or visit the website for additional information

For more information on oyster harvesting in Georgia contact GA DNR/Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218.

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