WHILE the Coffin Bay oyster harvesting area has been slowly re-opening over the past week, the South Australian Oyster Growers' Association says the impact of the month-long closure will be felt for some time.
SA Health issued a full recall of Coffin Bay oysters in mid-November following a spate of Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases among people who had eaten oysters from the region.
The disease can cause nausea, vomiting, gastro and fever.
The outbreak resulted in a shutdown of harvesting and production in the region as SA Health investigated the cause of VP cases.
While SAOGA chairman Rob Kerin welcomed the end to the Coffin Bay shutdown, he said it would still take time before all growers were able to resume harvesting.
"This is a step in the right direction, but it's important to note the area will be re-opened progressively," he said.
"The impact of the outbreak, subsequent closure and recall is massive and will be felt by our growers for some time.
"We need to continue to support them as they deal with the implementation of new control measures and get back on their feet, which could take longer for some growers than others."
Mr Kerin urged consumers to show support by buying SA oysters in the lead up to Christmas and beyond.
SAOGA said there would be no supply issues in the lead up to Christmas.
The cause of the VP outbreak is still undetermined, though it is suspected that high temperatures in the post-harvest period were a contributing factor.
"The 32 growers in the Coffin Bay area were putting procedures in place to rapidly reduce the temperature of oysters after harvest to further reduce any likelihood of the presence of Vibrio bacteria, according to Primary Industries Minister David Basham.
"An ongoing surveillance program has been put in place with regular testing of oysters."
Restrictions on oyster growers are being progressively lifted, with individual businesses required to demonstrate the safety of their systems, with final clearance to be granted by SA Health.
Three emergency orders were issued to allow Angel Seafood, Pristine Oyster Farm and Southern Eyre Seafood to harvest and sell oysters from the Point Longnose Aquaculture Zone for their licensed areas only.
"I am encouraging South Australians to get behind our Coffin Bay oyster growers and support them by purchasing local this Christmas," Mr Basham said.
The closure of the Coffin Bay oyster harvesting region resulted in a surge of enquiry for Stansbury oyster producers Steve and Gerri Bowley.
The couple have been running Pacific Estate oysters on the Yorke Peninsula coast for 16 years, growing the staple Pacific oyster, as well as the more niche native Ostrea Angasi.
"Christmas is always huge," Mr Bowley said.
"I'd say 25 to 30 per cent of our yearly sales of finished sizes come in December and January."
Pacific Estate on-sell about 80pc of their Pacific oysters to Coffin Bay to be grown out, with the ones grown out at Stansbury sold to local hotels, restaurants and markets, catering companies, and visitors to the Bowley's processing and sales outlet.
They supply foraging restaurants with Angasis on an irregular basis.
"Angasis are smaller and have a stronger flavour," Mr Bowley said.
"They're the craft beer of the oyster world.
"The Pacific oysters are like the session beer that you can eat or drink by the dozen, while the Angasi are the craft beer where you can appreciate the heritage and flavour profile but there's generally a couple of flavour notes you may not like."
Stansbury is the spiritual home of oyster harvesting in SA and was originally named Oyster Bay.
There are two commercial operators, and several recreational leases, operating today. Pacific sells about a million oysters a year.
"We supply a lot of Pacific stock to Coffin Bay, which is like the feedlot of the oyster industry," Mr Bowley said.
"Waters down in Tas are particularly good for growing baby oysters, while our waters are particularly good for the juvenile phase."
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