Local News

Parasite Killing North Carolina's Oysters

Posted October 17, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— The oyster season has just opened and fishermen are already worried about this year's harvest. A parasite called "dermo" is attacking and killing North Carolina's oysters, crippling the business.

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

Dermo, a one-celled parasite, kills the young oysters long before they're ready 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 everything about dermo, they said they are certain it does not make people sick. The parasite may be fatal to oysters, but there appears to be no connection between it and human illness.

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

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