South Australia's oyster grower representational body is fearing the loss of businesses and millions of dollars as the closure of the Coffin Bay oyster growing area is expected to remain closed until next week.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) closed the oyster production areas on November 16 as a precautionary measure as part of an investigation into a recent rise in vibrio parahaemolyticus (VP) cases.
SA Health issued a product recall on November 19 for pacific oysters produced in Coffin Bay, including fresh and frozen products, between September 4 and November 16.
The recall was issued following an investigation into the VP outbreak, which is thought to be related to unusual environmental conditions, including salinity and water temperature.
PIRSA has confirmed all 32 oyster growers in the region have been contacted as the department and SA Health continue their investigation.
PIRSA executive director of biosecurity Nathan Rhodes said the department was taking a cautious approach to reopening the growing areas.
"Following discussions with both SAOGA and Coffin Bay growers regarding our precautionary approach to this response, we have agreed that the department will keep the closure in place until next week," he said.
"Both industry and government want to ensure that we are confident that any further risk from vibrio parahaemolyticus has passed."
South Australian Oyster Growers Association chairperson Rob Kerin said since being notified of the potential outbreak the association had worked closely with PIRSA and given its full support to the closure of the Coffin Bay growing area.
However he said the outbreak and subsequent recall was likely to cost the industry millions of dollars and would sadly result in some producers being forced to close their business.
"Many producers were really only just starting to recover after weathering a shortage of spat to grow oysters, the establishment of new hatcheries, and then COVID, which saw a massive drop in demand due to restaurant closures," he said.
"To say this is devastating in the lead-up to Christmas is an understatement.
"We need to be there for our growers, who are suffering both emotionally and financially, as well as provide support to everyone along the supply chain."
Mr Kerin said the association was working with not-for-profit organisation Rural Business Support with the aim of connecting them to growers and support them in managing the impact of the outbreak.
Meanwhile a joint industry and government working group has been formed to further support the industry in the recall and to assess the damage. The full impact of the closure and recall is still being assessed.
Mr Rhodes said testing of oysters and environmental conditions would continue and the department was working with growers in implementing an enhanced control program, which would require growers to rapidly reduce the temperature of oysters after harvest to further reduce the likelihood of VP.
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