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      Public Warned About Oysters Unfit for Human Consumption

      The nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resource Council reports that oysters destined for a research project were stolen last week and may have subsequently been sold at below-market prices on Maui. The stolen oysters were being used to clean polluted water and are unsafe to eat. They are “no bargain for those who consume them, because they can cause severe illness,” reports Mike Fogarty, Acting Director of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.

      According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), uncooked oysters can carry Vibrio bacteria which can cause watery diarrhea, often accompanied by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Vibrio is a naturally occurring bacteria and can be found in any warm coastal waters and harbors, where it infects oysters.

      Vibro symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of ingestion and last about 3 days. IV fluids may be necessary if nausea and vomiting cannot be controlled. About 80% of infections occur between May and October when water temperatures are warmer. Vibrio cases have occurred in Hawai‘i, including a large outbeak of vibrio gastroenteritis in 1972 caused by the consumption of uncooked crab. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year. One species, Vibrio vulnificus, can cause life-threatening wound infections, reports the CDC website.  Many people with Vibrio vulnificus infection require intensive care or limb amputations, and about 1 in 5 people with this infection die, sometimes within a day or two of becoming ill.

      The CDC also reports that it’s impossible to tell if an oyster is bad by looking at it. “Always choose oysters raised in clean water, provided by a reputable source,” says Fogarty. “If you have reason to believe that the oysters you’ve purchased or consumed were stolen, please call Maui Nui Marine Resource Council at 808.707.5056 to report it.”

      “The oysters that were stolen were purchased with money raised by our community, to help clean polluted ocean water and benefit our local coral reefs,” says Fogarty. “We are heartbroken that this has occurred, but most of all, we are concerned about residents of our community who may consume these oysters and fall ill.”

      Fogarty notes that it is illegal to catch, take, kill, possess, remove, sell, or offer for sale oysters or clams from the waters of the state of Hawai‘i according to fishing regulations HAR 13-83 and HAR 13-85. Violators shall be punished as provided by law. Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is permitted through the State of Hawaii for its oyster project.

      Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is a community-based nonprofit organization celebrating 12 years of working for healthy coral reefs, clean ocean water and abundant native fish throughout Maui County. Our work includes co-managing the Hui O Ka Wai Ola Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program in South and West Maui, efforts to reduce pollution in Mā‘alaea Bay through erosion-control efforts in the Pohakea watershed, coral reef research, visitor education programs and more. Learn more at www.mauireefs.org.

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