At Pangea, Blue Point Oysters are a staple, but lately, they have been so hard to come by. When we asked our Blue Point harvesters why, many of them pointed to the new Connecticut 2014 Virbio parahaemolyticus Control Plan. Connecticut has enacted two versions of the control plan: one set of regulations for Darien, Norwalk, and Westport; and one set of regulations for all other CT areas.
Strangely, I couldn't find the updated control plan posted on the Connecticut Department of Agriculture Aquaculture site. So, I reached out to them and have posted it here for everybody's information:
- Connecticut 2014 VPCP for Darien, Norwalk, and Westport (DNW)
- Connecticut 2014 VPCP for all other areas
So what's the difference?
The main difference is the time required to cool the oysters to <50º F from time of harvest. In DNW regulations, harvesters are expected to rapid cool their oysters within one hour versus 5 hours in all other areas. For DNW harvesters, that means once the oysters are out of the water, they need to cull, clean, bag, AND rapid cool the oysters down to <50º F all within 60 minutes. For smaller boats that do not have slurries or processing equipment, this can be extremely difficult to do for a boat load of oysters.
Since we get most of our Blue Points from Norwalk and Westport waters, supply has been constrained because harvesters do not have the time (and/or boat) capacity to harvest substantial amounts of oysters. Instead, many harvesters are turning to clams because it's a better use of their time.
If these regulations do what they are intended to do, which is to prevent vibrio outbreaks, then it might be hard to argue any "undue hardships." Regulators are creating these plans based on the best information available, but more concrete data is needed. To the industry, some of these regulations seem a bit arbitrary. For example, why one hour and not two? These are questions many of us have on our minds, but only time will tell what will work and whether regulations will evolve as we test and learn.