The Louisiana Department of Health announced today the closure of oyster harvesting beds west of the Mississippi River as a precautionary response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

LDH closed molluscan shellfish harvesting areas 14 and 15 today at sunset as a precaution. Both areas are west of the Mississippi River in the coastal parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne.

LDH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure order, which took effect at sunset today, Saturday, May 8, 2010.

LDH officials have been working closely with local, state and federal agencies to monitor the oil plume that continues to grow off of the Louisiana coastline for its potential impacts on oyster harvesting areas. Meanwhile, employees with LDH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have continued their regular testing in oyster beds along the state's eight million acre shoreline.

In addition, LDH scientists and engineers are conducting enhanced testing of oyster meat taken from the closed beds, as well as from the state's many unaffected beds, to create a baseline sample. This baseline will be used to ensure the safety of oysters once the incident clears and the beds are reopened. Oysters being harvested in unaffected areas and oysters taken prior to closures of the affected beds are safe to eat. Officials with LDH are working closely the Governor's Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as the situation develops.