May 17, 2010 4:04 PM by Chris Welty
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced today that it has reopened oyster harvesting areas 19 and 21 to give harvesters as much time as possible to harvest their product before any potential impact from the BP oil spill in the Gulf.
Areas 19 and 21, which are west of the Mississippi River in Terrebonne Parish, were originally closed May 16. Both areas were closed as a precaution in anticipation of oil intrusion into that area. There has been no intrusion as of yet, and DHH officials continue to monitor the areas, as well as an entire 8-million acre area off the Louisiana shoreline.
In addition to continued monitoring, oyster harvesters "taste test" the oysters as they are pulled from the water to make sure their product is good. Harvesters and dealers test oysters in order to provide the most wholesome product and highest-quality product available to the public.
DHH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry on Monday signed the orders to reopen areas 19 and 21, which were effective immediately.
DHH 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.
In addition to regular testing schedules, DHH scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds to monitor the presence of oil. Oysters being harvested in areas open for harvesting have been deemed safe by DHH.
Areas 2 through 4, 8, 14, 15 and 17 remain closed. Areas 5, 6, 7, 9 and 13 were recently reopened. 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.