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Coffin Bay oyster crisis continues

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Coffin Bay oyster growers are estimating last week’s product recall due to a spike in gastro cases will cost the industry millions of dollars, prompting a call for government support to prevent local businesses from going under.

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SA Health on Friday initiated a full recall of the Coffin Bay delicacy after 56 people contracted Vibrio parahaemolyticus (VP) from eating the region’s oysters.

The disease can cause gastro, nausea, vomiting and fever, with symptoms usually present within 24 hours of eating the contaminated food.

The recall covers all oysters sold from the Coffin Bay region from September 4 to November 16.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regions also last week shut down oyster harvesting and production at Coffin Bay to give officials an opportunity to trace back recent VP cases.

South Australian Oyster Growers Assocaition Chair Rob Kerin said the recall and shutdown is “likely to cost the industry millions of dollars” and will “sadly result in some producers being forced to close their business”.

“We fully support a public safety-first approach and back the decision of SA Health to issue the recall, but it will be a further blow for the industry, which has weathered a number of very tough years,” Kerin said.

“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.

“To say this is devastating in the lead-up to Christmas is an understatement.”

Kerin said the association would “certainly be talking” to the State Government about support measures for affected businesses.

“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,” he said.

ASX listed Angel Seafood – the Southern Hemisphere’s largest organic certified pacific oyster producer, with farm leases in Coffin Bay, Haslam and Cowell – reported earlier this week that it expects oyster harvesting to resume in Coffin Bay on November 29.

The Port Lincoln-headquartered company earlier this month reported a 5 per cent increase in September quarter revenue to $2.1 million.

The presence of VP in oysters this year has been attributed to “highly unusual” environmental conditions.

No cases of the disease were reported in 2020, according to SA Health, while eight cases were recorded in 2019.

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