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Famous Oysters Threatened

UK - World famous Whitstable Oysters are under threat. The shellfish have tested positive for a devastating parasite.

Bonamia ostreae has been confirmed in native oyster samples taken from Whitstable Bay. The parasite causes the serious disease Bonamiosis in native oyster stocks.

Tests were carried out on the Whitstable Bay oysters by Fish health inspectors from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) in Weymouth, Dorset. The positive results have now forced the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to issue a notice under the Fish Health Regulations, 1997, controlling the movement of molluscan shellfish. The order covers clams, mussels and scallops - from the North Kent coast - as they too can help spread the disease although are not clinically affected by the parasite.

It is not expected that the controls will interfere with current commercial activity. Bonamiosis has no implications for human health, and native oysters from this area can still be eaten.