NC Division of Marine Fisheries

MOREHEAD CITY — Carteret County residents and visitors may start hand-harvesting oysters from the public bottom Friday, and state fisheries managers have advice on how enjoy them.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries announced Tuesday the approach of the hand-harvest season for oysters. Recreational hand-harvest is allowed sunrise to sunset seven days a week. The harvest limit is one bushel of oysters per person per day or two bushels per vessel per day if more than one person is on a boat. No license is required for recreational harvest, but the oysters may not be sold. The minimum size limit is 3-inches shell length.

Those who hold proper commercial fishing licenses may harvest oysters from sunrise to sunset Monday through Friday each week. Commercial hand-harvest limits are different for some waters and by license type.

“Nothing says fall on the coast of North Carolina like the beginning of oyster season, when people pull out the fire grates and steamer pots and get ready to slurp down a salty treat,” the DMF said. “But those pearls of delight need to be properly stored and chilled to ensure a healthy eating experience.”

The DMF offers consumers the following safety tips regarding oysters:

  • Only purchase oysters from licensed dealers. These dealers are inspected and required to keep oysters under refrigeration and otherwise handle the product in a sanitary manner.
  • If you harvest oysters for yourself, keep them shaded from the sun and refrigerate them as soon as possible.
  • Once you have harvested or purchased the oysters, keep them cold. Shell oysters need to be kept at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Thoroughly wash oysters prior to cooking. Remove all mud and dirt from the outside of the oyster using a stiff brush and pressurized water.
  • Store oysters away from other contaminants. Oysters can become contaminated by placing them on wet floors, splashing them with dirty water or by contact with raw fish and other foods.
  • Prior to cooking or raw consumption, discard dead oysters. Dead oysters will have slightly gaping shells that will not close when tapped. Once cooked or roasted, oyster shells will naturally open.
  • Those with compromised immune systems should fully cook all oysters before consumption. People with liver disease, alcoholism, diabetes, cancer, stomach or blood disorders or those on medication that weakens the immune system are at risk for a potentially serious or even fatal illness from naturally occurring bacteria.

Thoroughly cooking the oysters destroys these bacteria. To thoroughly cook oysters in the shell, consumers should either boil them in water for 3 to 5 minutes after the shells open or steam them in a steamer for 4 to 9 minutes after the shells open. Discard any oysters that do not open during cooking.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.