Anticipating another rift with the powers that be in Washington D.C., Louisiana is taking steps to allow oysters to be sold year round in the state.
Last year, the Gulf oyster industry held off U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which wanted to impose post-harvest restrictions on oysters during warm months.
Future FDA action to control Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, recently the fastest growing among the causes of foodborne illness in America, will prohibit the sale of raw or live oysters from April to October, warm months in the Gulf.
Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse, has introduced House Bill 695 in anticipation of possible FDA action. It provides that Louisiana would enforce the FDA’s changes only as they apply to oysters being shipped out of state.
Louisiana would continue to shut down oyster beds in the event of an outbreak or if any threatening bacteria are found in state waters. The Louisiana House without opposition adopted HB 695.
It is now awaiting action in the Senate. The Louisiana Legislature is not scheduled to adjourn until June 21.
State lawmakers also took some actions to clarify shrimp industry-related issues, including one that was raised by the BP oil spill that has been underway since April 20.
Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 men working on the rig, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries briefly opened and then closed the shrimp harvest zone.
Since the dates for the shrimp season are found in state law, there were questions about the department’s authority to close the shrimp zone that is bound by the Terrebonne-Lafourche region.
New law gives the department the express authority to alter the opening dates.
The Legislature also recognized a formal Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, a group originally called together last year by Gov. Bobby Jindal in response to low prices at the dock.
Shrimp, even before the oil spill, were getting a lot of attention from lawmakers. HB 890 sets up a certification program for Louisiana wild-caught shrimp and other seafood that is patterned after one used in Alaska.
The four-phase, voluntary program would certify the authenticity of Louisiana shrimp.