The Department of Health has closed ALL oyster harvest areas from the Mississippi State Line to South West Pass, Vermilion Bay as a precautionary measure in anticipation of the adverse effects of Hurricane Ivan. This precautionary closure prohibits oyster harvest from all state waters and is effective today, September 14, 2004 at official sunset.

The areas that have been closed are known to oyster fishermen as Harvest Areas 1 through 28. These areas will be reopened as soon as feasible following the landfall of Hurricane Ivan. Areas with no known impact will be reopened immediately, while those that are impacted will open as soon as it is determined that they meet the criteria established by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH Secretary, and Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer today signed the order to close Oyster Harvest Areas 1-28.

“This is a precautionary closure,” Dr. Cerise explained. “These harvest area will remain closed until we are confident that the waters are free of bacterial contamination that could affect the safety of eating raw oysters.”

According to Dr. Guidry, flooding conditions that may be created by Hurricane Ivan cause natural contaminates to be washed into rivers, bayous and streams where they can then flow into the oyster-growing areas.

The Louisiana Oyster Task Force also is in support of this precautionary closure.

“A temporary closure allows for the water to be tested, assuring oyster harvesters and the oyster-eating public that only fresh, clean oysters are harvested,” said Mike Voisin, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force. “While there may be some spot shortages created by the closure, we are confident that once the areas are re-opened there will be an ample supply of fresh oysters.”

Water standards for oyster harvesting are set by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference and can be found at LDH has the authority to close these waters under LSA-R.S. 40:5,3.