Harvesting Safer Oysters – “From Bay to Table”

Harvesting Safer Oysters – “From Bay to Table”

Oysters on the half shell

Oysters on the half shell ready to eat! Photo Courtesy of Florida Sea Grant

Making oysters a healthy and sustainable seafood choice is the goal of oystermen and seafood dealers across the nation and the state of Florida. New education programs for the oyster industry went into effect January 1, 2014 and were implemented by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) this past spring. FDACS oversees oyster resources and seafood dealer certification.More information about FDACS division Aquaculture can be found at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Aquaculture .

As our fall harvest areas reopen, many local oystermen are now viewing a new 25 minute video which is now required along with a Commercial Saltwater Products License to harvest oysters commercially. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) issues licenses for both commercial and recreational oyster harvesters and enforces laws related to harvesting. More information regarding proper licensing can be found online at http://myfwc.com/license .

All harvesters can do their part to insure seafood safety by following important harvesting guidelines. These include time and temperature protocols in the collections and transportation of shellfish to the dealer or home. Also important, are harvest boat safety, condition, and sanitation practices. Protection of oyster resources through proper culling and following the 3” inch size limit is important to creating sustainable oyster resources. The new video provides this education and an Oyster Harvester Training Certificate for commercial harvesters is available to those who watch the video at the following FDACS and UF/IFAS Extension Offices by appointment:

FDACS Field Offices:

Melbourne Office: 321-984-4890

Port Charlotte Office: 941-613-0954

Cedar Key Office: 352-543-1084

Tallahassee Office: 850-617-7600

Apalachicola Shellfish Center: 850-653-8317

UF/IFAS Locations:

Bay County: 850-784-6105

Franklin County: 850-653-9337

Santa Rosa County: 850-623-3868

This harvesting and training information is also appropriate for recreational harvesters even though it is not required.

Recreational harvesters regulations and instructions can be found at http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/shellfish .

Seafood safety is of interest to everyone,including harvesters, seafood dealers, and consumers. Each year there are a relatively small number of serious cases of foodborne illness as result of shellfish consumption. Often illness is a result of poor choices made by consumers. Consumption of raw oysters or other shellfish is not recommended for individuals with compromised immune systems. Poor immune systems are often the result of liver-disease or when chemotherapy treatment is used. Patient diagnosed with diabetes, iron overload disease, and HIV/AIDS are also advised not to consume raw shellfish.

New research also suggests another risk group are patients with acid reflux and digestive issues. Some over the counter and prescription medications, including antacids and proton pump inhibitors, increase stomach pH which allows more potentially harmful bacteria to survive ingestion, leaving patients at a higher risk for a variety of foodborne illnesses. The best advice is to consult your doctor if you have questions about whether consuming raw shellfish is appropriate for your health concern. Cooking is also a tasty way to safely prepare and enjoy shellfish. For additional guidance please visit http://safeoysters.org .

Lions in the Gulf… Tigers in the Bay

Lions in the Gulf… Tigers in the Bay

This catchy phrase coined by Robert Turpin (Escambia County Marine Resources Division) describes the new invader to our marine waters. Many coastal residents are aware of the invasive lionfish that has invaded our local reefs but few have probably heard of the Asian Tiger Shrimp. This member of the penaid shrimp family, the same family are edible white, brown, and pink shrimp come from, was brought to the United States in the 1960’s and 70’s as an aquaculture project. Over the years farmers have moved from Tiger Shrimp to the Pacific White Shrimp and the last known active farm was in 2004.


The Asian Tiger Shrimp can reach lengths of 12"

The Asian Tiger Shrimp can reach lengths of 12″

In 1988 2000 of these shrimp were lost from a farm in South Carolina during a flood event. 10% of those were recaptured and some were collected as far away as Cape Canaveral. No more was heard from this release until 2006 when 6 were captured; one of those in Mississippi Sound near Dauphin Island. Each year since the number of reported captures has increased suggesting they are breeding.


2006 – 6 captured

2007 – 4 captured

2008 – 21 captured

2009 – 47 captured

2010 – 32 captured

2011 – 591 captured


One individual was caught in 2011 near Panama City and 5 were collected in 2012 in Pensacola Bay. In recent weeks the Sea Grant Agent in Escambia County has received reports of numerous Tiger Shrimp being collected from Escambia Bay. There is currently no scientific evidence of negative impacts of this shrimp in our area. They are aggressive predators of benthic invertebrates and may out compete our native penaid shrimps and could possibly feed directly on the juveniles.


Five tiger shrimp captured by shrimpers in Pensacola Bay.

Five tiger shrimp captured by shrimpers in Pensacola Bay.

NOAA scientists are interested in obtaining samples of this shrimp for DNA studies. It differs from other local penaid shrimp in that it is larger (8-12” long), dark in color (dark green to black) and has light stripes (white to cream colored). The larva and juveniles live in the bay. Sub adults will migrate offshore for breeding. They are a tropical species that have a low tolerance for cold temperatures, showing no growth below 20°C, but have a high tolerance for changes in salinity. If you thing you may have one of these shrimp and are interested in donating one, please contact Sea Grant Agent Rick O’Connor at (850) 475-5230 or roc1@ufl.edu.