Department of Agriculture Inspections Uncover Illegally Harvested Oysters
Undersized oysters in 83 percent of random samples inspected at Connecticut wholesalers
(Hartford, CONN.) Today Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky announced that during a recent series of inspections, Connecticut Department of Agriculture officials discovered illegally harvested, undersized oysters in 20 of 24 samples randomly selected from Connecticut wholesale shellfish dealers.
“Our Bureau of Aquaculture has worked extremely hard with members of the industry over the years to ensure Connecticut shellfish complies with very strict sanitation protocols to ensure the health and safety of consumers,” said Commissioner Reviczky. “While we have focused an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources in that regard, it is now clear that we also need to more closely scrutinize compliance with minimum size laws.”
Section 26-234b of the Connecticut General Statutes states, “No person may take eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) from the waters of this state which are less than three inches long…” This three-inch minimum harvest size was debated extensively during the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, including at the Environment Committee’s March 27, 2013, meeting.
Between July 2 and July 17, 2013, officials from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Regulation and Inspection assessed 10 Connecticut wholesale shellfish dealers and two Connecticut shellfish harvesters, randomly selecting a total of 24 ten-count oyster samples. Each sample oyster was measured with a caliper along the longest part of its shell, in accordance with accepted industry standards.
Only four of the samples contained no oysters smaller than three inches. Twenty samples contained a portion of illegally sized oysters ranging from 20 to 90 percent of the total sample.
“The state has invested millions of dollars to enhance shellfish production conditions and grow the industry,” Commissioner Reviczky. “It’s up to all of us to make sure this industry thrives.”
Oysters from the 20 samples in violation were harvested by 11 different licensed commercial oystermen. The Department of Agriculture issued those 11 harvesters a notice of violation with a warning that future infractions could be subject to a fine of not more than $500 and/or imprisonment of as long as six months, as per Section 26-237 of the Connecticut General Statutes.