MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Recent cases of people getting sick from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria may have made some people concerned about swimming in Long Island Sound or eating raw seafood.
But the contaminated seafood was not from a Connecticut establishment, and local shell fishermen want people to know what they do to keep safe.
“Normally it will take me about a half hour, 45 minutes to load the boat,” said Jim Markow, who owns Mystic Oysters.
He has been seeding, growing and harvesting his oysters off the Connecticut coastline for decades.
Many of Mystic Oysters’ beds are less than a mile from the processing plant in Noank.
Within 15 minutes of being harvested, the oysters are brought into the refrigerated building, where workers sort through them.
Markow wants consumers to know how he operates, especially in light of last week’s concerns about the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. The bacteria occurs naturally in Long Island Sound.
Health officials warned about the bacteria after people were recently hospitalized with the rare illness. One person has died.
“In this particular instance, this was not a case of shellfish that were consumed from Connecticut waters,” said Tessa Getchis who is a senior extension educator with Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension. “The state closely monitors the shellfish growing areas so they regulate the entire industry.”
The Connecticut Bureau of Aquaculture tests for the Vibrio bacteria regularly.
“They have hundreds of stations along the coastline where they are monitoring that water to ensure that that shellfish can be safely consumed when they’re on your plate,” Getchis said.
Many Mystic Oysters are consumed right at its new shack in downtown Mystic.
“It’s somewhat satisfying to give people a story of how things are grown in Connecticut and what we actually do,” Markow said.
Customers can get the oysters on the half shell, or in a small bag to-go — provided that they bring a cooler.
Just like the state Markow wants to make sure his oysters are kept cool so they are safe.