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Oyster farmers say recalls and health warnings will mean a hit to the bottom line

The coastal shellfish industry – which is centered on the Island – says recalls and warnings about raw oysters are going to hurt their bottom line.

A naturally occurring bacteria that targets shellfish is thriving because of unusually warm water temperatures, leading to more cases of contamination.

Island Health is telling restaurants to warn customers about the risk from raw oysters, but Vancouver Coastal Health has imposed a ban on serving them (cooking the oysters will kill the bacteria).

Roberta Stevenson of the BC Shellfish Growers Association says that’s hitting their largest market. “The raw oyster market in Vancouver properly, this time of year, is probably about 50-thousand dollars to the farmers a day,” she says. “Farmers are going to suffer economically because of this closure – make no mistake.”

Stevenson says they’ve never had a recall before, in more than a hundred years of commercial harvesting in the region, “But we’ve probably never had a summer this extreme in lack of rainfall and hot temperatures,” she adds.

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According to the Public Health Agency of Canada 53 people in BC, and 19 in Alberta have become sick after picking up the bacteria by eating raw oysters.

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