Here comes oyster season

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality

 

Release: Immediate                                                                                 Contact: Patricia Smith

Date: Oct. 12, 2015                                                                                Phone: 252-808-8025

Here comes oyster season

 

MOREHEAD CITY – Pull out the fire grates, steamer pots and shucking knives.

 

Oyster season starts this week.

 

To keep this season healthy and happy, here are a few things consumers and fishermen should keep in mind.

 

For those who eat

Consumers need to take some common sense precautions when buying, storing and preparing oysters and clams to prevent illnesses caused by two environmental bacteria.

 

Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus are common, naturally occurring bacteria found in coastal waters worldwide and are most abundant when water temperatures are warm. In rare instances, these bacteria can cause serious gastrointestinal illnesses or wound infections.

 

During the past several years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported an increase in Vibrio infections across the United States. People with compromised immune systems are most at risk, particularly for the more serious illnesses caused by Vibrio vulnificus. However, everyone is susceptible to less severe illness caused by pathogenic strains of Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

 

Before they indulge, consumers should remember these tips from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality Section:

·         Thorough cooking destroys these naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. Those with the following conditions are at higher risk for illness from raw or undercooked oysters and clams and are advised to fully cook all shellfish:

   Liver disease (from hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism or cancer)

   Diabetes

   Iron overload disease (Hemochromatosis)

   Cancer (including lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease)

   Stomach disorders

   Any illness or medical treatment that weakens the body’s immune system. If you are unsure of your risk, ask your doctor.

·         Only purchase oysters and clams from reputable dealers, retailers, grocers, markets or restaurants. It is illegal for shellfish harvesters to sell directly to the public without a dealer license and certified facility. These facilities are regulated to ensure sanitation and temperature control is maintained on the shellfish.

·         By law, the shellfish tag must be removed by the vendor at the last point of sale. However, you may ask to see the tag to ensure you are receiving a fresh product. For the best quality, shellfish should be consumed within 10 days of being harvested. If properly refrigerated, they are still safe to eat and will last longer, but the quality will start to diminish.

·         Keep oysters and clams refrigerated at 45 degrees or below until you are ready to prepare them. The Vibrio bacteria commonly found in shellfish can multiply rapidly if they are left exposed to air temperatures above 50 degrees.

·         Thoroughly wash shellfish prior to cooking. Remove all mud and dirt from the shell using water and a stiff brush. Many dealers will wash oysters for a nominal fee when you purchase them. The mud and dirt may contain Vibrio bacteria so it is important to clean the shellfish prior to serving or cooking.

·         Prior to cooking or raw consumption, discard any dead shellfish. Dead shellfish will have slightly gaping shells that will not close when tapped.

 

For those who shuck ‘em

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries provides the public with drop-off sites for recycling oyster shells. Recycled shells are put back into the waters, where they serve as habitat for future oysters and a multitude of other small marine organisms that fish eat.

 

Shell recycling sites can be found at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/public-oyster-shell-recycling-locations.

portal.ncdenr.org
Public Oyster Shell Recycling Locations. These sites accept other calcium-based shells including clams, conchs, scallops and mussels.




For those who harvest

Harvest of oysters by hand methods from public bottom begins at sunrise Oct. 15.

 

Those who hold proper commercial fishing licenses may harvest oysters from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday each week. Commercial harvest limits are different for some waters, and fishermen should see Proclamation SF-6-2015 at http://www.ncmarinefisheries.net/proclamations for specific regulations.

 

Recreational hand harvest is allowed sunrise to sunset seven days a week. The harvest limit is one bushel of oysters per person per day or two bushels per vessel per day if more than one person is on a boat. No license is required for recreational harvest, but the oysters may not be sold.

 

The minimum size limit is 3 inches shell length.

 

Some waters are still temporarily closed to shellfish harvesting due to high bacteria levels associated with the recent runoff and flooding. Fishermen should check http://www.ncmarinefisheries.net/proclamations-polluted-areas for shellfish closures. Fishermen should continue to frequently check for closures throughout the year, particularly after heavy rainfalls. They may also call the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries at 252-726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632 to check for closures.

 

For more information

   About Vibrios, see the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ website athttp://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/vibrio.html.

 

   About shellfish safety, contact Patti Fowler, the division’s Shellfish Sanitation and Recreational Water Quality section chief, at 252-808-8147 or [email protected]. You may also contact Shannon Jenkins, with the Shellfish Sanitation Section, at 252-808-8148 or [email protected].

 

   About this year’s oyster season, contact Trish Murphey, the division’s Southern District manager, at 252-808-8091 or [email protected] or Tina Moore, also with the division, at 252-808-8082 or[email protected].

 

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Ocean and sound-side swimming waters may be polluted from excessive rains

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality

Release: Immediate                                                                    Contact: Erin Bryan-Millush / J.D. Potts

Date: Oct. 5, 2015                                                                      Phone: 252-726-6827 exts. 8153 / 8154

Ocean and sound-side swimming waters may be polluted from excessive rains

MOREHEAD CITY – State officials today advise the public to avoid swimming in all coastal waters statewide due to high rainfall and flooding from recent storms that may have led to excessive bacteria in the water.

“Waters impacted by these storms can contain elevated levels of bacteria that can make people sick,” said J.D. Potts, manager of the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program. “Floodwaters and stormwater runoff can contain pollutants such as waste from septic systems, sewer line breaks, wildlife, petroleum products and other chemicals.”

While state officials do not have laboratory confirmation of elevated bacteria in all coastal waters, test results of samples taken last week from several ocean-side swimming waters in Carteret, Onslow, Pender and New Hanover counties indicated the problem was widespread then. News releases were sent out advising the public against swimming in certain locations in these counties.

Since last week, additional widespread heavy rainfall has led to street flooding and sanitary sewer overflows.

The impacts are likely so widespread that signs may not be posted in all areas, but the public should avoid swimming in coastal waters until bacteriological testing indicates bacteria levels fall within the state’s and the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

This precautionary advisory will be lifted in part or in whole as test results become available.

The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program in the Division of Marine Fisheries samples 240 sites at ocean and sound beaches weekly from April to October in accordance with federal and state laws. Enterococci, the bacteria group used for testing, are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While the bacteria group does not cause illness itself, scientific studies indicate that enterococci may indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms.

For more information about coastal recreational water quality, visit the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-water-quality or on Twitter.com @ncrecprgm.

Marine Fisheries – Recreational Water Quality – NCDEQ
N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program. The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program began testing coastal waters in 1997. Our mission is to protect the public health …

Water quality swimming alert issued for ocean-side site in Dare County Sep 2015

Pat McCrory, Governor                                             

Donald R. van der Vaart, Secretary 

N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Release: Immediate                                                                    Contact: Erin Bryan-Millush / J.D. Potts

Date: Sept. 15, 2015                                                                  Phone: 252-726-6827 exts. 8153 / 8154 

Water quality swimming alert issued for ocean-side site in Dare County

MOREHEAD CITY – State recreational water quality officials today are alerting the public that initial testing at an ocean-side site in Dare County showed levels of bacteria exceeding the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s recreational water quality swimming standards.

The alert affects waters at the public beach access 100 feet north of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Samples collected yesterday show test results of 111 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water, which exceeds the state and federal single-sample standard of 104 enterococci per 100 milliliters for Tier 1 high-usage sites. Swimming areas are classified based on recreational use and are referred to as tiers.

State officials will test the site again today, and the results of the sampling will dictate further action. If the new samples also show elevated bacteria counts, state officials will post a swimming advisory sign and issue a swimming advisory.

The N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program tests water quality at ocean and sound beaches in accordance with federal and state laws.

Enterococci, the bacteria group used for testing, are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While it does not cause illness, scientific studies indicate that enterococci may indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standards have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.

State officials sample 204 sites throughout the coastal region, most of them on a weekly basis from April to October. Testing continues on a reduced schedule during the rest of the year, when the waters are colder.

To find out more about North Carolina’s beach water quality, visit the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-water-quality or on Twitter.com @ncrecprgm.

Water quality swimming advisory issued for sound-side site in Dare County

N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Shape
Release: ImmediateContact: Erin Bryan-Millush / J.D. Potts
Date: Aug. 12, 2015 Phone: 252-726-6827 exts. 8153 / 8154
Shape

Water quality swimming advisory issued for sound-side site in Dare County

MOREHEAD CITY – An advisory against swimming was posted today at a sound-side site in Dare County, where state recreational water quality officials found bacteria levels in the water that exceed the state’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s recreational water quality standards.

The advisory affects the swimming area at the Jockey’s Ridge sound-side access in Nags Head. Test results indicate a running monthly average of 56 enterococci per 100 milliliters of water. This exceeds the state and federal standards of a running monthly average of 35 enterococci per 100 milliliters, based on five samples taken within a 30-day period.

Enterococci, the name for the group of bacteria used for testing, is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. While the bacteria group’s presence does not cause illness itself, scientific studies indicate that the presence of enterococci is closely correlated to the presence of other organisms that may cause illness. People swimming or playing in waters with bacteria levels higher than the standards have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal illness or skin infections.

This advisory is not a beach closing, nor does the advisory affect the entire Nags Head area. Swimming advisories affect water within 200 feet of the sign. The sign posted reads as follows:

ATTENTION
SWIMMING IN THIS AREA IS NOT RECOMMENDED. BACTERIA TESTING INDICATES
LEVELS OF CONTAMINATION THAT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR
HEALTH. THIS ADVISORY AFFECTS WATERS WITHIN 200’ OF THIS SIGN.
OFFICE OF THE STATE HEALTH DIRECTOR

State officials will continue testing the site, and they will remove the sign and notify the public again when the bacteria levels decrease to levels below the standards.

Recreational water quality officials sample 204 sites throughout the coastal region, most of them on a weekly basis, from April to October. Testing continues on a reduced schedule during the rest of the year, when fewer people are in the water.

For more information on the N.C. Recreational Water Quality Program, visit the program’s website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/recreational-water-quality or on Twitter.com @ncrecprgm.

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