The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission voted earlier this month to officially "disagree" with proposed federal regulations that call for a ban on harvesting untreated oysters from the Gulf of Mexico beginning in the summer of 2011. A commission resolution requests that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "reconsider" the ban, which is under review, and that all Louisiana agencies work together to reduce the burden of the costly regulations. More than anything else, it's a symbolic move because the proposed regulations deal with oysters moving in interstate commerce, but LDWF Secretary Robert Barham says taking no stance on the controversial proposal was not an option. "[The state] is committed to supporting our oyster industry and it is my hope that the state can work with the FDA to arrive at a satisfactory resolution," Barham says.
What's likely to have more of an impact is legislation recently filed by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and Congressman Charlie Melancon. The bills would prevent the FDA from using federal money to implement the proposed ban. Many in the oyster industry fear the FDA proposal would put them out of business because of the costs involved in obtaining sterilization equipment. Others add that it could cause consumers to shun oysters altogether because the sterilization process ruins the taste and consistency of the mollusks. "Seafood plays a big role in Louisiana's culture and history and state economy," Vitter says. "Typical of the federal bureaucracy once it decides to act, the FDA is going overboard. Banning raw oysters is an irresponsible solution to a problem that could be solved through increased education and awareness." — Jeremy Alford