Maxime Kheloufi’s ponds are empty and his oysters are waiting to dive back into the water. Since Wednesday, this oyster farmer from Gujan-Mestras (Gironde) attempts to estimate “irrecoverable” losses from his farm a few days before the New Year. After “several cases of collective food poisoning”, the prefect of Gironde took the decision “to temporarily prohibit fishing, harvesting and marketing activities intended for human consumption shells from the Arcachon basin, including the Banc d’Arguin.”
“It’s a massive blow for the profession,” emphasizes Maxime. “Especially since a closure due to norovirus,” he explains, “is a minimum of 28 days of interruption of marketing.” A considerable shortfall for breeders who are counting on the end-of-year holidays. Producers say they are “victims of the saturation of wastewater and rainwater networks” after severe bad weather in the fall, which causes “overflows into the natural environment”, contaminating the breeding areas.
For oyster farmers in the Arcachon basin, 2023 is a double punishment. “Just two months ago we experienced episodes of storms which destroyed a good part of the parks of the Banc d’Arguin,” recalls Maxime Kheloufi. “That’s a lot of bad news,” summarizes the thirty-year-old who points out the impact of global warming on the disasters affecting his profession. “Naturally, the oyster will eliminate the virus after a few days and will be good to eat again,” he reassures. “But we must make long-term decisions to prevent these extreme phenomena from developing further.”