Eastern Shore – Beverly Ludford knows oysters like the back of her hand.
She wakes up early every morning, along with her team at Pleasure House Oysters in Virginia Beach, to harvest oysters on a boat.
“We have strict guidelines. We have to go out at a certain time in the morning – 5 a.m. And we have to be back at the dock before 10 a.m. We have to ice the product down on the boat,” says Ludford.
But that’s just a sample of state regulations, Ludford says, that harvesters have to follow. These are laws she insists watermen along the Eastern Shore followed too, despite the health department shutting down Fishermen’s Island to oyster harvesting for a year.
The shutdown happened because 3 people who live in other states got sick after eating tainted raw oysters that were harvested from our area in May.
“They’ve been doing it for generations. They know what they’re doing and we feel very strong that they followed all those procedures,” says Ludford.
Keeping the oysters cool, specifically below 50 degrees, is a big concern for Ludford. In fact, she takes a thermometer with her every time she’s on the water to make sure bacteria doesn’t make those who eat the oysters sick.
“When the oysters are not held at the proper temperature, the bacteria can grow and it grows rapidly. The numbers of bacteria double very quickly,” says Ludford.
Ludford still questions what happened after the oysters were harvested and delivered to the other states.
“We don’t know what kind of refrigeration they were placed in. We don’t know how long. We don’t know how they were stored,” says Ludford.
And as long the closure is in effect at Fisherman’s Island, watermen will have to find different areas to get their catch.