Louisiana oysters are being harvested again, although it may be another week or more before people can belly up to an oyster bar and order a dozen on the half-shell.
The beds in the eastern half of the state were tested and retested after Hurricane Katrina to ensure they were clean of chemicals or germs from the water that was pumped out of New Orleans or ran off of other areas.
Beds in west Louisiana were closed as a precaution when Hurricane Rita headed in in late September.
Harvesting began in some areas on Saturday, and the entire state will probably be open in the next week to 10 days, said Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma and chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I was telling people last week that if we didn’t get something soon, the harvesters would lose the calluses on their hands.”
Just as restaurateurs face a shortage of shuckers, harvesters have to get their deckhands back. “A lot of them had evacuated,” Voisin said.
He said there were probably 75 or 80 boats out Saturday — about one-fifth or less the usual number for this time of year.
Al Sunseri, owner of P&J Oyster Co., was able to slurp down some fat ones on Sunday, almost as they arrived at the French Quarter processing plant.
“That was the first time I’d seen oysters since the storm,” he said. “It was really a great treat to go ahead and open up a bunch and taste them.”
Acme Oyster House is serving fried oysters and is hoping to have the char-grilled and raw oysters in about a week, chief operating officer Glen Armantrout said.
“The fried oysters are from Texas,” he said Monday. “Although they’re very good, our customers have been asking for the Louisiana oysters.”