Cedar Key clams and oysters are safe

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By Kellie Parkin

Cedar Key's most imminent risk is not oil in the waters, Leslie Sturmer, University of Florida Aquaculture Extension Agent, said after a briefing Tuesday.

“The biggest risk right now is losing market. We don’t want people to be afraid of the seafood. It’s safe,” Sturmer said. “Our growers, our harvesters, our wholesalers, our buyers and our consumers need to know – our seafood is safe. We don’t have oil here.”

Sturmer said that aquaculture is a strictly regulated industry. “The state agency has an emergency plan. They will close the waters prior to any potential contamination.”

A representative from the Department of Agriculture, which regulates the aquaculture industry, said that waters would be closed if oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill comes within 24 hours of Cedar Key. It is unclear at this time how far off the coast that would be.

The oil spill is located approximately 250 miles from Cedar Key.

“Our Gulf waters have no oil,” Levy County Commissioner Lilly Rooks said, reiterating Sturmer’s words. “We welcome visitors to come enjoy our wonderful, fresh seafood.”

Rooks said the Levy County Commission will support the coastal communities however it can. “We will go after all the resources out there and do whatever we can to help.”

Oystermen’s Association President Ricky Cooke agreed it’s an important message to spread. “Our shellfish are safe. The waters would be closed way in advance of any threat, so as long as our waters are open, all of our shellfish are safe.”

Cooke said that if the oil spill reaches Cedar Key, the impact will stretch far beyond the aquaculture industry.

“Because if it gets here, it’s not just a few million clams lost, it’s the whole damn place lost,” he said. “And I don’t know if it will ever come back in my life time.”