Baton Rouge –The Department of Health has closed all of the oyster beds that reopened last Friday in Terrebonne Parish and all areas west to the Louisiana-Texas state line known as Shellfish Harvest Areas 15 thru 28.   This closure is being taken as a precautionary measure because of Hurricane Rita.

Shellfish harvest areas 1 thru 14, which were closed last month as an emergency measure following Hurricane Katrina, remain closed to the harvest of all molluscan shellfish (oysters.)

This precautionary closure prohibits oyster harvest from all state waters and is effective today,Sept. 23, 2005 at official sunset.

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 areas 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 Rita 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.

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.