The Department of Health announces the expansion of oyster harvesting in the Lower Calcasieu Lake Conditional Management Area, effective Dec. 26, 2005.

“The LDH Molluscan Shellfish Program conducted an extensive sampling program over the past year, which showed that the expanded area meets the water quality criteria necessary for us to allow oyster harvesting there,” said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. “Beginning Monday, fishermen will have more than 6,000 additional acres to harvest from in this part of the state.”

This area, located at the south end of Calcasieu Lake in Southwest Louisiana, has been increased from 8,559 acres to 14,743 acres.

"This creates a significant improvement in areas available for harvesting oysters around Calcasieu Lake,” said Michael Voisin, chairman of The Louisiana Oyster Task Force. “We appreciate DHH’s effort to help us with our post-hurricane Oyster Recovery Plan, which includes improved and expanded use of the Calcasieu Lake harvesting area.”

In addition to expanding Lower Calcasieu Lake Conditional Management Area, the state has also assigned numerical designations to this area and to West Cove Conditional Management Area. Effective Dec. 26, the Lower Calcasieu Lake area will be known as “Area 29” and the West Cove area will be “Area 30.”

Any states that allow oyster harvesting must have a system of designating each area, and all oysters harvested from that area must be tagged with the designation clearly showing. This system was developed so that health officials can trace any outbreaks of foodborne illness from oysters to a specific harvest area, as that area could require a temporary closure to protect public health.

Previously, of the 30 harvest areas in Louisiana, the first were designated numerically as Areas 1-28, with the two in Southwest Louisiana known by name. However, because these two areas did not have a number like the others, there was some confusion among other states that received Louisiana oysters. Effective Monday, all oysters harvested in Louisiana will be identified by harvest area number to simplify the identification process.

Oyster fishermen who harvest in these two areas will now be required to identify their catch with oyster harvester tags from Area 29 rather than Lower Calcasieu Lake Conditional Management Area, and as Area 30 rather than West Cove Conditional Management Areas.

For more information on oyster harvesting areas in Louisiana, please visit the LDH Web site at: