Oyster disease management, prevention tackled

French Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Bruno LeMaire on Tuesday met with oyster growers to tackle the pressing issue of disease.

In the past three years, up to 90 percent of juvenile oysters have died from a suspected viral disease in key French production zones.

Producing about 130,000 metric tons of oysters annually, with a value of EUR 630 million (USD 842 million), the French oyster industry is big business for a country that consumes more oysters (125,000 metric tons) than any other European Union nation, and eats about 95 percent of its output.

But such is the extent of the mortality that oyster production in the country this year is expected to fall 40 percent. This decline is likely to continue over the next two years, largely because oysters require three years to reach maturity. And last month the situation reached a head when more than 300 producers descended onto the streets of Paris, pushing for a meeting with LeMaire.

The producers clinched a meeting. In fact, LeMaire set up a series of meetings; the first one, dubbed “Assises de la conchyliculture,” took place on Tuesday. The series will see regional and national shellfish bodies rubbing shoulders with scientists and politicians to find a way to manage the disease and prevent future outbreaks.

“These meetings will allow us to establish the future axes for the shellfish supply chain and to respond to their challenges,” said the ministry.

The discussions will investigate how the industry can respond to new sanitary and environmental measures and look at how to reinforce and better coordinate shellfish research. Conclusions of the multi-pronged discussions are due to be released in October.

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