Louisiana Closes Two Oyster Harvest Areas, Allows Some Oyster Relocation

Precautionary closures protect human health;
relocation of oysters helps prevent further damage to commercial
industry

Louisiana officials announced precautionary closures of two
oyster harvesting areas on May 13 that are receiving large amounts
of freshwater intrusion from the opening of the Bonnet Carre
Spillway and from the Mississippi River.

Officials also announced that oysters in some areas east of the
Mississippi River may be relocated from beds that will be inundated
with fresh water to other seed grounds or oyster leases out of the
way of the flood waters coming through the spillway into Lake
Pontchartrain and into the Gulf of Mexico. A special permit is
required for relocation of oysters from an area closed for
traditional harvest to an area specifically for bedding purposes.
The permit is not required if the harvest area is open for
harvest.

Closures

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is closing
oyster harvest areas 1 and 7. The closures will take effect at
sunset, Saturday, May 14, 2011. Area 1 is in Lake Borgne in Orleans
and St. Bernard parishes, and Area 7 in Plaquemines Parish. Both
oyster harvesting areas are on the east side of the Mississippi
river.

Louisiana State Health Officer, Jimmy Guidry, M.D., and
Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein
signed the orders today. The closures will remain in effect until
officials are able to verify the safety of the resource for human
consumption.

DHH is monitoring all impacted oyster beds and doing routine
water testing to ensure public health. State officials have
notified local oyster harvesters that work in the affected areas,
as well as the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

Resource Relocation

A special bedding-only season has also been announced by state
officials today. At an emergency Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries
Commission meeting, the commission voted to open a special
“bedding-only” oyster season for public seed grounds in the Lake
Borgne and Mississippi Sound area in St. Bernard Parish. The
special season, which will open at one-half hour before sunrise on
Saturday, May 14, 2011 and shall close at one-half hour after
sunset on May 31, will allow the oyster industry an opportunity to
relocate oysters ahead of possible freshwater impacts from the
opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

This special oyster season allows the harvest of seed oysters
for bedding purposes only in the public oyster seed grounds
within:

Harvest area 1

Harvest area 2

That portion of Harvest area 3 located north of a line of latitude
30 degrees 00 minutes 00.0 seconds N and east of a line of
longitude 89 degrees 22 minutes 50.0 seconds W.

The special “bedding-only” season described above shall be opened
with the following provisions:

1. All oysters on board a vessel actively harvesting oysters in
the public seed grounds described above shall be presumed to have
been taken from the public seed grounds described above.

2. No oyster harvester who is actively harvesting oysters in the
public seed ground described above shall have on board his vessel
any sacks or containers which may be used to hold oysters for
transport to market.

3. No harvester shall sell, or transport with his vessel, oysters
intended for market sales on the same day that he harvested seed
oysters from the public seed grounds described above.

Click here to a view a map.

Harvestable quantities of oyster resources exist on these public
oyster seed grounds. The opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway
places those resources in imminent peril. As significant oyster
mortalities could be experienced due to the anticipated depression,
the special season is a necessary step to protect and preserve
Louisiana’s oyster resources.

The Commission gave the Secretary of the Department of Wildlife
and Fisheries, Robert Barham, authorization to take emergency
action as necessary to open or close public oyster areas based on
the best available biological data.

Beginning Sunday, May 15, 2011, harvesters that seek to
participate in the oyster relocation or “bedding-only” season in
Harvest Area 1 must have a special permit that requires
notification of where transplanted oysters will be relocated. A
permit is not required on Saturday, May 14, 2011, because Harvest
Area 1 will still be open. Oysters harvested and relocated to a new
lease may not be harvested for consumption or for the public
marketplace for at least 14 days — ample time for the oysters to
filter any contaminants. Permits can be obtained at the Louisiana
Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health
Commercial Seafood Program, located at 628 North 4th St., room 156,
in downtown Baton Rouge. The special permit requires a $5,000
bond.

 

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