Pass oystermen defend their harvest

By Al Showers - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Row after row of oyster boats sit idle in the Pass Harbor. They haven't moved since the only reef harvestable was shut down last week.

"Anytime they close you down from working it has an impact," Jim Workman said.

Oystermen Jim Workman and Daniel Rosendale decided to use their down-time to make repairs to their boat.

"There's no income, there's no money to be made right now. The money that we've got, we're just holding onto and we're just getting by. It's messed up for a lot of people. This is how a lot of people make their living right here," Rosendale said.

But oysters are a delicate crop. The DMR shutdown the Pass reef after eleven people became ill after reportedly eating Mississippi oysters at a restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"We're trying to do everything in our power to get this area open as quickly as we can, at the same time making sure the public health is protected," said DMR's Scott Gordon.

DMR is warning consumers not to eat raw oysters harvested between February 25 and March 17.

Folks in the oyster industry say they find it hard to believe that the Tennessee problem stems from Mississippi waters. They say on the day the problem came up, more than 4,000 sacks of oysters were shipped out all over the nation. The Tennessee restaurant was the only one to launch a complaint.

"The way I look at it, they probably had their oysters in the cooler too long. I don't think it's the oysters that's coming off of this reef right here. Because I eat them just about every day. I bring them home to my friends and family and stuff, and none of us ever got sick from them," Rosendale said.

The reef will be closed for at least 21 days. Rosendale and Workman just hope they'll have enough time to recoup their losses before the season comes to a close in late April.

The state of Virginia is the latest state to issue a recall on oysters harvested in Pass Christian waters. No one in Virginia has reported becoming ill from the oysters.

The Norovirus is similar to a stomach virus with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches and diarrhea.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.