12/05/08 — Beware of where you buy oysters

View Archive

Beware of where you buy oysters

By From staff reports
Published in Sports on December 5, 2008 1:46 PM

Oysters are always popular during the holiday season.

It is also the time of year when the N.C. Marine Patrol steps up enforcement efforts against illegal seafood sales.

With that in mind, the Division of Marine Fisheries is warning the public to be careful about where they purchase their seafood.

"A misconception within the public is that commercial license holders that harvest oysters can sell to individuals," said Marine Patrol Capt. Steve Anthony. "They can only sell to dealers."

A Fish Dealer's License is required for anyone who buys seafood directly from a fisherman. It also is required for fishermen who sell their catch directly to the public.

By law, a fish dealer must post a copy of his dealer's license at his place of business, even if that place of business is in the back of a truck.

One of the main reasons for these regulations is public health safety.

Those who buy straight from the harvester have no way of knowing how long the fishermen has had the oysters, said Steve Murphey, environmental health supervisor with the Division of Environmental Health.

"Once a harvester sells to a dealer, the dealer has to refrigerate the oysters and keep them sanitary," said Murphey. "The dealer is responsible for properly recording temperature, sanitation, labeling, shipping tags and posting a consumer advisory sign."

The consumer advisory sign warns people with compromised immune systems not to eat raw oysters. Vibrio Vulnificus that may be present in oysters is a harmful bacteria that can cause severe illness or death to at-risk people who eat raw shellfish.

Another reason the state requires dealer licenses is to keep records of commercial seafood landings through the division's Trip Ticket Program -- a system in which fishermen record harvests and sales. That information is then used in agenda setting, disaster relief and management planning.