Louisiana oystermen are back in business, and at first glimpse the oysters are fat and salty! On Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) opened the private oyster grounds east of the Mississippi River. That includes:
* Area 1, which is better known as Lake Borgne
* Area 5, which includes Lake Machias, Lake Calebasse and Lake Fortuna
* Area 6, which includes Lake Campo
* Area 7, which includes Bay Crabe, American Bay and Bay Gardene.
Private farms west of Bayou Lafourche in Lafourche Parish are also open for harvest, as well as all of the beds in Terrebonne Parish. These beds are designated as Areas 14 through 23 and include Cat Bay, Bay Courant, Bay Boudreaux, Hackberry Lake and Turtle Bayou as well as many other farm sites.
The only public oyster bed that is open as of Oct. 25, 2005 in Louisiana is Sister Lake in south Terrebonne Parish.
As DHH state labs were knocked out by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana technicians worked with U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff at their labs in Thibodaux, La. and Dauphin Island, Ala. They completed careful testing on floodwaters and oyster meats.
DHHs Bruce Champion, who oversees Louisianas oyster monitoring program, said, After many weeks of extensive chemical and microbiological testing of oysters, the science shows that the oysters in Areas 1, 5, 6 and 7, plus Areas 14 through 23 are ready for harvest. He went on to say, Were continuing to check other oyster growing areas across the state and believe that well see more areas opening in the near future.
Mike Voisin, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force and owner of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, said, Oysters are back! Its great to see our guys back at work. Weve all been out of business since Hurricane Rita hit last month, and its just great to see the oyster boats filling up trucks up again. The oysters coming in are a nice size and they taste great!
Al Sunseri, owner of P & J Oyster Company in the French Quarter, said, Weve been closed for eight weeks, the longest weve ever been closed in our 129 year history. The restaurants, hotels and grocers we sell oysters to are excited to get oysters back on their menus and on their shelves. Its been so long since Ive eaten oysters. Today when I got my first load in I ate two dozen on the half-shell.
Tony Tesvich, president of Plaquemines Oyster Association, said, Even though Katrina took my home as well as most of the association members homes, its great to be out on the water making oysters again. Ive been working everyday since DHH said we could on Saturday, and I hope to be working everyday until my crew and me need a rest. But I dont see that happening anytime soon.
Glen Armantrout with Acme Oyster House Restaurants said, In our 95 years of being in business this is the first time we have had to do without Louisiana oysters. Our customers are thrilled to know that Louisiana oysters are back on our menus!
Louisiana produces over 250 million pounds of in-shell oysters annually. As a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the damages that were sustained about 100 million pounds of in-shell oysters should be produced in Louisiana this coming year.
EDITORS: For more information, contact Mike Voisin at 985-868-7191 or visit www.louisianaoysters.org.