Georgia’s territorial waters will re-open to commercial and recreational oyster harvest effective 7:00 a.m., Friday, October 1, 2021. This was after Commissioner Mark Williams announced in May that oyster harvest in state waters would close at 6:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 1, 2021 through midnight on Thursday, September 30, 2021. A similar closure occurred in 2020 to meet the requirements of Georgia's Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) control plan.
Vp is a naturally occurring bacteria found in filter-feeding shellfish. It occurs at higher concentrations during the months of the year when coastal water temperatures are warm. “This closure ensures that Georgia meets the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program to protect public health during the summer months by implementing a Vp control plan,” explained Dominic Guadagnoli, shellfish fishery manager for the Coastal Resources Division.
The fall and winter season when the temperatures begin to cool is when most consumers purchase shellfish. Here are a few things to look for when buying oysters, clams, or mussels from seafood dealers and markets.
- Only buy fresh in-shell oysters, clams, or mussels from a licensed retail or wholesale seafood dealer that has product properly tagged with a harvest location, dealer name and date. Likewise, when buying in-shell processed or shucked oysters, clams, or mussels ensure that the product has been processed by a certified dealer with the name, address, and dealer certificate number on the tag or label.
- Only buy shellfish that have been refrigerated or iced at 45⁰ F or less.
- Shellfish should never be consumed raw by individuals that have a compromised immune system such as diabetes, liver disease, cancer, and other disorders.
- Risk of illness from consuming shellfish can be significantly reduced if the product is thoroughly cooked.
If you are uncertain whether molluscan shellfish have been harvested or distributed by an approved licensed seafood dealer contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Seafood Safety Office at 404-657-4801 or visit the web-link www.safeoysters.org for additional information.
For those who prefer to harvest their own oysters and clams, Georgia offers approximately 8,500 acres of public harvest areas along the coast. Public harvest areas are available in every coastal county and detailed maps can be downloaded at https://coastalgadnr.org/approvedrecharvestareas. A Georgia fishing license is required to harvest oysters and clams for recreational purposes.
For more information on oyster harvesting in Georgia contact GA DNR/Coastal Resources Division at 912-264-7218.