People and Places: Shell-ebrating the Oyster Fest

This series is dedicated to interviewing interesting people and exploring intriguing places, promising viewers an intimate look at the diversity and beauty of our area through the eyes of those who call it home.

Welcome to “People & Places,” a video column where local resident Henk Conn takes us on a journey through the heart of the California North Coast. Henk shows us a little of what makes each location and its inhabitants worth getting to know.

Welcome to another edition of “People & Places,” a video column by local filmmaker Henk Conn. Saturday, Henk plunged into the vibrant Oyster Festival in Arcata, California, where he interviewed a dedicated oyster farmer.

Joining the interview is Alice Pitt, the well-known timekeeper at the Dead Man’s Drop obstacle in the Kinetic Sculpture Race. As Alice samples oysters both raw and cooked, her expressions hint at a variety of reactions, perhaps masking a range of preferences for these seafood treats (or perhaps we’re just projecting our own emotions).

Whether they were a die-hard oyster lover or someone still deciding how they feel about them, the fest was a place many Humboldt folks couldn’t resist yesterday.

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The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Last edited 1 month ago
D'Tucker Jebs
Member
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

It is amazing, some of the thing you come up to worry about.

tru matters
Guest
tru matters
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Tucker Jebs

Can’t have anybody having a good time, God forbid.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  tru matters

[edit]

Mine was a PSA.

I just looked this up in regards to my previous experience to confirm or refute the possibility that the loss of use of my arms might have had anything to do with my consumption of so many oysters that night, some that were possibly borderline fit for human consumption…

I googled…

“Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning loss of use of arms”

And this is what I found…

https://doh.wa.gov/community-and-environment/shellfish/recreational-shellfish/illnesses/biotoxins/paralytic-shellfish-poisoning

‘What are the symptoms of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning?’

“Early symptoms include tingling of the lips and tongue, which may begin within minutes of eating toxic shellfish or may take an hour or two to develop. Symptoms may progress to tingling of fingers and toes and then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty in breathing. Some people feel nauseous or experience a sense of floating. If a person consumes enough toxin, muscles of the chest and abdomen become paralyzed, including muscles used for breathing, and the victim can suffocate. Death from Paralytic Shellfish Poison has occurred in less than 30 minutes.”

……………………………..

As I recall, I was also having trouble breathing along with paralysis and total numbness in both arms…

🖕 both of you for your insensitivity and carelessness towards your community…

Forgive me Kym, I was only trying to warn others of a very real, dead serious risk, that was not too far away, nor too far fetched…

Last edited 1 month ago
The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Tucker Jebs

Mr. Jebs,

After eating a a large number of oysters at a local memorial event, some years ago, I woke up with both of my arms without feeling, nor the ability to use or move either one of them…

It was necessary to remain calm, stand, and firmly twist my torso in one direction and then the other, over and over, my arms uselessly flailing and flopping violently, without feeling or function, against my chest, then alternatingly, against my back, until they finally started to tingle, as the circulation, sensation, feeling, and function SLOWLY returned, bit by bit…

A panic attack, understandably, ensued, along with an ambulance ride to the ER, for good measure, just in case…

It was not a fun experience.

Somewhat traumatic, actually…

Whether or not it had something to do with eating so many oysters, some that may have been borderline fit for human consumption, wasn’t ever determined, one way, or another…

No tests were done in that regard…

What was determined, was that I wasn’t actually having a heart attack, (which the ER was focused on), like some people thought…

But, that’s how scary it was…

I’ve been leary of eating oysters ever since, but still do once in a while…

Let’s just say that shellfish toxicity warnings now get my undivided attention…

I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.

Just an FYI.

Last edited 1 month ago
D'Tucker Jebs
Member
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

After eating a large quantity of oysters, my belly felt full,
my burps tasted like shellfish, the hours in the Sun made my skin pink,
and dancing to band after band left my legs sore.
That’s why I go every year.
Good job, Arcata.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Tucker Jebs

By all means, go, and be happy…

But, if you go, go forewarned.

I saw these warnings BEFORE the Arcata oyster fest…

I should have said something sooner…

Hopefully no one became ill…

You are not the only one.

Last edited 1 month ago
The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Tucker Jebs
Mel
Guest
Mel
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Tucker Jebs

Oysters, mmmmmm, bbq, fried, broiled, sautéed, pan fried, baked, boiled, fricaseed, marinated, smoked, deep fried, steamed, raw, stewed , brewed and they look so beautifully, ah feminine.

Mel
Guest
Mel
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Well, okay then……..thanks. I think.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/shellfish-poisoning-fda-warning-washington-oregon-cbs-news-explains/

“Before you dig into that platter of freshly shucked oysters or baked clams at your favorite seafood restaurant, better make sure you know from where the shellfish originated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid eating shellfish from Oregon and Washington state because they may be contaminated with toxins that cause what’s known as paralytic shellfish poisoning. At least 31 people have been sickened in Oregon so far, according to state health officials. Here’s what to know about the FDA advisory.

What is the FDA warning about?

The FDA says to avoid oysters and bay clams harvested from Netarts and Tillamook bays in northern Oregon since May 28, as well as shellfish harvested from areas around Willapa Bay in southern Washington since May 26. They may be contaminated with high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, a naturally occurring toxin produced by algae.

Shellfish harvested from those areas during that period were distributed beyond Oregon and Washington to Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York. The FDA has warned restaurants and retailers in those states not to serve it.

Elevated levels of toxins were first detected in shellfish on the Oregon coast on May 17, state fish and wildlife officials said.

Since then, a paralytic shellfish poisoning outbreak has sickened at least 31 people in Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The agency has asked people who have harvested or eaten Oregon shellfish since May 13 to fill out a survey intended to help investigators identify the cause of the outbreak and the number of people sickened.

Oregon authorities have closed the state’s entire coastline to the harvesting of mussels, razor clams and bay clams. Agriculture officials have also closed three bays, including those named in the FDA advisory, to commercial oyster harvesting.

The FDA also urged restaurants and food retailers not to serve or sell oysters and bay clams from growing areas in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay,

Officials in neighboring Washington have also closed the state’s Pacific coastline to the harvesting of shellfish, including mussels, clams, scallops and oysters, a a shellfish safety map produced by the Washington State Department of Health shows.”…

What are symptoms of PSP poisoning?

People who eat shellfish contaminated with high levels of saxitoxins usually start feeling ill within 30 to 60 minutes, according to Oregon health officials. Symptoms include numbness of the mouth and lips, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat in severe cases.

There is no antidote to PSP, according to the health agency. Treatment for severe cases may require mechanical ventilators to help with breathing. In fatal cases, death is typically due to asphyxiation.

But for “patients surviving 24 hours, with or without respiratory support, the prognosis is considered good, with no lasting side effects,” the FDA says.”

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Last edited 1 month ago
AkbarD
Member
1 month ago

Oysters served at oysterfest are cultivated, not wild harvested. This means they are tested and safe for consumption.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  Akbar

“Agriculture officials have also closed three bays, including those named in the FDA advisory, to commercial oyster harvesting.

The FDA also urged restaurants and food retailers not to serve or sell oysters and bay clams from growing areas in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay,”

Angela Robinson
Member
Angela Robinson
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Both Netarts and Tillamook are back open, as of a couple of days ago. Though, TBH I wouldn’t eat shellfish from Tillamook Bay because of the cow shit from all the dairy farms. (No matter what some may say, those cows are pooping in fields near waterways. Enjoy!) Last I heard, Willapa Bay across the river in WA is still partially closed. Really good oysters come from there.
I may make jokes about it, but the big rise in closures is very concerning. Bay clamming is still closed and forget about mussels.

Last edited 1 month ago
The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago

Interesting.

I noticed in one of the articles I read that the toxins can get bad just depending on how the wind blows…

I’m surprised that the oyster fisheries mentioned are already back open…

It was also mentioned that the toxins could linger for a longer or shorter time depending on the bivalve species, I think razor clams took the longest to fully clear the toxins…

I really like good oysters, but they are increasingly hard to find…

I have a tendency to overdo it, eating numerous dozens at a sitting…

Especially the ridiculously tiny ones that show up at our local farmers market, well before they are actually marketable…

They are so tiny that after two dozen you’re ready for at least three dozen more…

Kinda shady…

I won’t by them anymore…

Last edited 1 month ago
Angela Robinson
Member
Angela Robinson
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

I love Kumamotos. They are small and taste like the ocean to me. But are you talking about oysters so small they’re like those that are sold as “smoked oysters” in tins?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago

Kumamotos are the best…

These oysters that show up at our farmers market give you a bite that is literally only about a teaspoon…

Much smaller than smoked oysters in tins…

I don’t see how the guy can legitimately even sell them…

He says he can get a lot more dozens in his two ice chests that way…

I think he brings down and sells oysters that don’t even come close to making the smallest commercial grade…

They are much too small, but once they are sorted out, I think, he sells them anyway, and reaps a hefty profit, from commercially unmarketable oysters that would have to otherwise be “replanted” in the bay, or discarded, but can’t otherwise be sold.

Like I said, to small, not worth buying, or even going to the trouble of cooking…

Two dozen, each, left us still feeling hungry, after eating them, for me and my wife, and so splitting the fifth dozen, didn’t make much difference…

Angela Robinson
Member
Angela Robinson
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Wow…that’s just messed up. Is it even legal?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago

Not sure…

Is there a minimum size…???

I wish he would bring some with a little more quality…

The person that was doing it before would bring much nicer oysters that represented a much greater value for the money…

Last edited 1 month ago
Angela Robinson
Member
Angela Robinson
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

I was just trying to find if the three west coasts states have a size limit Nothing easily found. That sucks. Seems a bit sleazy to me, but I guess if people are buying them. DO you know where he’s getting them from?
We buy them from a local farm here on Yaquina bay. Decent oysters and they have Kumamotos. Next time I’m up there I’ll ask.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
1 month ago

Thanks.

Bozo
Guest
Bozo
1 month ago

Most all the Oysters on the West Coast are introduced species and commercially cultivated. There are no size limits on them.
The exception is the Olympia oyster. They are a pretty tiny native oyster (meat the size of a fingernail) but (IMHO) have a bit of a disagreeable taste.
Semi common around here, but have never developed a sport fishery for them.

Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica): commercial.European Flats (Ostrea edulis): commercial.Kumamoto Oysters (Crassostrea sikamea): commercial.Olympia Oysters (Ostrea conchaphila): commercial, restoration, native.Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas): commercial, enhancement.

Last edited 1 month ago
ChimaeraD
Member
Chimaera
1 month ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Yeah. Catherine is the best! She grills
oysters now at Arcata Farmers Market. Had a long talk with her about how regulated the oysters here are: regular water tests and oyster tests are mandated by State Health Dept. She is very knowledgeable and prioritizes the safety and quality of her oysters.

Starry
Guest
Starry
1 month ago

Id be more concerned about the gunk left from the 97 oil spill in the bay.
The fuel was chunky and most of it dropped to the bottom of the bay. That stuff doesnt go away.
I worked on that oil spill gathering up oiled birds and critters, i saw that fuel.
Ill never eat anything from the bay.

https://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=947#:~:text=On%20November%205%2C%201997%2C%20the%20Kure%20spilled%20approximately,Louisiana%20Pacific%20%28LP%29%20Export%20Dock%20in%20Samoa%2C%20California.

Al L Ivesmatr
Guest
Al L Ivesmatr
1 month ago

First world problems and oysters. Yikes. Oysters are delicious. Raw, barbied, and smoked. It’s all good, Seafood provides. The solution to pollution is dilution so don’t worry about the naysayers claiming you will be glowing phosphorescent green in the dark for eating them occasionally.