Oyster bed closure update

As many of you have heard, oyster beds in Duxbury (and Plymouth & Kingston) were closed for commercial harvesting on Friday due to limited reports of a bacteria called Vibrio. I wanted to offer everyone an update and some background as this is a critical issue for our district.

Vibrio is a bacterial pathogen that occurs naturally in oceans around the world. It is more prevalent with raw oysters in warmer waters but due to climate change and rising water temperatures it is occurring more often in our area. Vibrio is not fatal, but it can cause some unpleasant side effects. Usually it occurs within 24 hours of consumption. Foreseeing this potential concern, the state recently implemented a Vibrio (Vp) management plan.


Statewide there have been 50 cases of Vibrio reported this season. 19 of those cases were traced to out of state sources and 3 were sourced to our harvest area, which is what triggered the closure.

This development is obviously frustrating to all the oyster fans (not just locally but around the world!) who have come to love Duxbury and the South Shore's famed oysters. But for our oyster growers, both large and small, it presents a severe economic hardship.

Rep. Calter and I and our legislative team are working with state officials to make sure we keep the communication lines open with our local oyster growers. To that end I'm pleased to report that at our request the commissioner of the Department of Public Health and other key state officials will be coming to Duxbury this Friday to meet personally with our local oyster growers. The purpose of this meeting will be to answer questions about the closure, share data and focus on a path forward so we can work together to re-open the beds in the safest and most expeditiously manner possible.

I want to stress that bacteria is exceedingly rare. There were just 3 reported incidents sourced back to our local oysters and we believe they are more likely the result of poor food retail handling practices rather than any local harvesting procedures. (In fact, in two of the three cases the oysters were consumed out of state.) In other words, oysters are safe and tasty and you should eat them! Statistically you're more likely to get sick eating chicken. (Not that you should stop eating chicken.) Also, there are strict procedures already mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in place regarding oyster harvesting and handling and in many cases our Duxbury growers exceed those standards.

Finally, it is worth noting that while the Mass. Department of Public Health and Division of Marine Fisheries are responsible for the oyster bed closure, they are operating under federal mandates from the FDA and the Center for Disease Control.

If you have any questions about this issue, or if you are a local oyster farmer and want to attend our meeting, please don't hesitate to contact me, or call me on my cell at 781-217-5854. I will continue to provide updates as more needed.

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Rep. Josh S. Cutler
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: 617-722-2810

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