WATCH: The source of contamination making people from B.C. to Ontario sick still hasn’t been identified. The number of people sick with acute gastrointestinal illness has grown to more than 90 and include people in B.C., Alberta and Ontario. They all reported eating raw B.C. oysters, which have been traced back to three farms in the Deep Bay area just south of Courtenay. Dean Stoltz reports.
The water south of Courtenay is a prime growing area for shellfish, including oysters, which are shipped to customers around the world.
But recent illnesses and farm closures are taking their toll on an industry already hit hard by an even larger outbreak last year.
“I would say that the hit to the industry is quite enormous and sales of over $9 million were lost last year,” said Steve Pocock, president of the BC Shellfish Growers Association.
Farmers this year have seen orders drop by 50 to 70 percent. The names of the specific farms haven’t been released but everyone is taking a hit.
The norovirus outbreak last spring was blamed on human sewage in the marine environment and it’s believed to be the most likely cause of the contamination this time as well. However, the source of that sewage still hasn’t been identified.
“And we’re deeply concerned the cause of this is established,” added Pocock. “At the moment, it’s still inconclusive and we’re still working on it but there may be further information that comes forward in the next little while here.”
He says 80 per cent of their customers eat oysters raw and he says they should know there are still plenty of safe oysters available.
“Largely the problem has been identified. Farms have been closed and there are lots of good, safe oysters still available,” said Pocock.