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French Oyster Mortalities Leads to Movement Ban

FRANCE - The French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has introduced a ban on oyster movements in France following the discovery of significant mortalities in oysters in the southern Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal areas.

At present, mortalities (in oysters less then one year old) are reported to be on average lower than those observed in 2008, ranging from 20 %-80% according to batches. Mortality occurs both on wild and hatchery seed, some areas that had been exempt last year are also effected. Production areas effected spread from the Mediterranean coast up to the south of Brittany.

However, the ministry has announced that productions areas where abnormal mortalities are reported should: define the area that is hit by abnormal mortalities and be classified as restricted areas; stop movement of oysters out of these areas, with the exception of oysters intended for direct consumption or for bulk oysters that will be held in closed water circuits; stop movement into these areas, movement of oysters within a restricted area is authorised.

Reinforcement of the mortality surveillance in restricted areas and out of restricted areas is also being called for and epidemiological investigation is to be carried out on all production areas. In conjunction, exports of all oysters not intended for direct consumption (seed, ½ grown oysters included) from restricted areas to other countries is banned.

The length of these bans remains un clear. It seems that decisions will be locally revised once the abnormal mortality has ceased. The French CNC is currently searching for an agreement with its ministry for the authorisation of bulk trade into the depots ( upper level of the strand) for commercial size oysters.

After hearing news of the movement ban, members of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) met with French shellfish grower representatives at their headquarters in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the problem.

Irish production has not been affected, however the ban on both imports and exports to the largest market for oysters will impact heavily on Ireland's 200 oyster producers. The IFA representative with an official from Bord Bia's Paris office received a detailed report from the Comité National de la Conchyliculture (CNC - French Shellfish Association) before going on to join them at a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels on Wednesday (3rd June).

IFA Aquaculture Executive Secretary, Richie Flynn, said, "Similar mortality patterns to that which occurred on French farms last year and caused chaos on the market have been identified in French production areas. These mortalities have however occurred in different environmental conditions than during spring & summer 2008, with lower water temperature and no low water salinity. Mortalities have been observed in areas where water temperatures had remained below 14°C°.

On Friday the 29th of May, the French Ministry of agriculture and fisheries through the DGAL has issued an internal note to all relevant authorities and for general release. The note indicates that p

Mr Flynn warned IFA Aquaculture oyster producers to be vigilant on imports and to make sure they were tested for suspect pathogens by the Marine Institute and to keep abreast of the situation through IFA, Bord Bia/BIM and the Marine Institute websites and notices. The CNC, with the support of IFA, is asking the European Commission to immediately fast-track research into resistant hybrid oyster strains and the identification of particular strains and families which appear not to be affected by the summer mortality problem.

the Fish Site Editor

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