BRUNSWICK — Georgia’s territorial waters will re-open to commercial and recreational shellfish harvest at 6 a.m. Friday.
DNR Commissioner Mark Williams closed shellfish harvest in state waters Oct. 7 in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew and the pollution it could wash into growing areas..
“The predicted impacts from Hurricane Matthew included heavy rains and larger than normal tidal surges that could have resulted in elevated bacterial levels from runoff into the growing areas,” said Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division of DNR. “Post-Matthew 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 cool is when most consumers buy shellfish. Here are a few things to remember or look for when buying oysters, clams or mussels.
• Buy only fresh in-shell 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. Likewise, when buying in-shell processed or shucked oysters, clams or mussels ensure the product has been processed by a certified dealer with the name, address, and dealer certificate number on the tag or label.
• Also, only buy shellfish that 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 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 web-link www.safeoysters.org for additional information.