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Bracing for Tighter Oyster Rules in Florida

FLORIDA, US - The largest oyster industry in Florida says that it is bracing itself for new regulations, which may be drafted as early as the year's end.

According to David Adlerstein in the NewsHerald, the new rules, which could involve more bay closures, shorter working hours and even required on-board refrigeration methods, are on the horizon because of the Gulf of Mexico oyster industry's likely inability to meet guidelines for reducing the incidence of vibrio vulnificus in 2008.

The 16-year-old Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, which promotes shellfish sanitation through cooperation of state and federal regulators, the shellfish industry and academia, agreed to rules nearly a decade ago designed to reduce the incidence of vibrio.

A pathogen found in raw oysters that is destroyed when they are cooked, vibrio can cause illness and even death among people who have chronic illnesses and eat oysters raw, says the NewsHerald.

The industry met the required 40-percent reduction in vibrio illnesses during 2005-06 but likely will not meet the goal for 2007-08.

"We know we are not going to meet the 60-percent reduction goal," said David Heil, a chief aquaculture regulator with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.