Scientists Use Katama Bay For Detailed Study Of Oysters & Vibrio

The sun was still low in the sky over Chappaquiddick early Thursday morning, but the work day was well underway on Katama Bay. Oyster farmer Scott Castro grabbed an orange plastic basket and hopped into a boat, motoring out to his shellfish farm on the bay as a cormorant dried its wings on a nearby dock. Ryan Smith loaded oyster grow-out bags into a boat with his father, Joe, while Sophie the dog ran up and down the dock. Jack Blake, known as an early riser, had been at work out on his raft since dawn.

Another day of work for the oyster farmers running 12 aquaculture operations on Katama Bay, except that business has come to a halt with a two-week closure of the oyster farms because of Vibrio illness tied to raw oysters consumed from the bay. A precautionary seven-day closure was announced last Wednesday; this Tuesday the state Department of Public Health and Department of Marine Fisheries announced the closure would be extended by another week because of three additional confirmed illnesses.

The closure has put a wrinkle in an otherwise thriving Vineyard aquaculture industry, which is centered out on Katama Bay. This is the third closure of the area in as many years, and Vibrio cases continue despite new protocols for shellfish growers that by all accounts are being followed. Vibrio has been documented for the past three years, and scientists said this week the illnesses are tied to a virulent strain of the bacteria now found in East Coast waters.

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