The Louisiana Department of Health announced today the closure of oyster harvesting bed areas 8 and 9 as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf.
The closures, which will take effect today at sundown, are west of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish. Areas 10 through 12, also west of the Mississippi, remain open. Area 8 has been closed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 due to the presence of fecal coliform and remains closed with this order.
LDH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure order, which will take effect at sunset today, Tuesday, May 11, 2010.
LDH officials have been working closely with local, state and federal agencies to monitor the oil plume that continues to grow off of the Louisiana coastline for its potential impacts on oyster harvesting areas. Meanwhile, employees with LDH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have continued its regular testing throughout 8 million acres of coastal waters along the Louisiana shoreline.
In addition, LDH scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds to monitor the presence of oil, called hydrocarbon testing. Additional testing is also being conducted in unaffected oyster beds. These tests will create a baseline, which will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears in order to reopen beds. Oysters being harvested in unaffected areas and oysters taken prior to closures of the affected beds are safe to eat.
LDH issued closures for areas 2 through 7 on April 30; areas 14 and 15 were closed at sundown May 8. An additional precautionary closure of Area 13 took place at sunset, May 10. Closures will remain in effect until officials have determined that environmental conditions are within the requirements specified by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
The public is encouraged to call a toll-free hotline, 1-800-256-2775, to report the presence of oil or an oil sheen.
For more information related to the oil spill, visit http://www.emergency.louisiana.gov. Connect with us on www.facebook.com/GOHSEP and on Twitter @GOHSEP. View photos in from the state's response efforts at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lagohsep