What will the annual Wellfleet Oysterfest be without the popular local food that gives it its name? We'll find out this weekend. In a sign of widening troubles for Cape Cod's shellfishing industry, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Marine Fisheries today shut down Wellfleet shellfish beds to both commercial and recreational fishing due to a recent outbreak of norovirus. The areas affected are Wellfleet Harbor, the Inner Harbor, Herring River and Loagy Bay.
75 people reported cases of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting due to norovirus ingested in raw oysters originating in Wellfleet over the weekend in restaurants and weddings in the outer Cape.
Wellfleet is the only Cape Cod community outside the wider area of shellfish beds closed along Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds. Those areas were shut down October 10th in response to an algal bloom which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in people. Marine mammals and birds can also be harmed by the algae.
Organizers for Wellfleet Oysterfest say the show will go on this weekend, with cooked seafood and other popular festival dishes. As of this writing, the festival website had not yet reflected the news that raw Wellfleet oysters will not be served at the weekend event. An article in the Cape Cod Times quotes a festival organizer stating raw oysters will be brought in from other sources. In a typical year, an estimated 125,000 raw oysters are consumed by thousands of festival goers over the two day October event.