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Parasite Killing North Carolina's Oysters

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MOREHEAD CITY — The oyster season has just opened and fishermen are already worried aboutthis year's harvest. A parasite called "dermo" is attacking and killingNorth Carolina's oysters, crippling the business.

If you like seafood, there's a good chance you've eaten oysters grown byRaymond Graham. For four generations, his Carteret County family has soldthe shellfish to people who crave their unique taste.

Dermo, a one-celled parasite, kills the young oysters long before they'reready for harvest.

Dermo appeared in the Gulf of Mexico more than 40 years ago, and scientists still don't know how to control it.

While scientists are quick to point out that we don't know everythingabout dermo, they said they are certain it does not make people sick. Theparasite may be fatal to oysters, but there appears to be no connectionbetween it and human illness.

Dermo is having a devastating effect on the local oyster industry. Thisyear, harvesters expect to bring in only a third of what they typicallycaught just a few years ago.

Clams don't seem to be affected by dermo and oyster harvesters are lookingto them to make up the extra money.

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