Take a ride on Captain Nick Warhurst's boat and there is just one rule: do not eat raw shellfish.
"I'd rather you not eat anything raw on my boat," said Warhurst. "If you want to eat them raw you wait till you get to the dock and you're on your own."
Married to a nurse, Warhurst says he knows the dangers of eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
"Some people die from this stuff," he explained.
According to the Florida Department of Health, two Tampa-area residents did get infected with Vibrio Vulnificus and died this year. One resident was from Citrus County, the other resided in Sarasota County.
Vibrio is a bacteria that occurs naturally in Gulf Coast waters.
You can also get infected if you go into water with an open cut or sore.
So far this year, 23 people have been infected by the bacteria across the states. A total of five people have died from the infections.
However, contracting it is rare.
"It is really, really, really rare, but why take the chance," asked Terry Natwick, the director of sales and marketing at the Plantation Inn in Crystal River.
The inn, which is a hotspot for tourists who've come to scallop stay, offers a catch and cook program.
"Not only do we have somebody who will professionally shuck the scallops for you and keep it on ice and then put it in a Ziplock and then you bring it right to our kitchen where we refrigerate it at the proper temperature and cook if for you either that day at lunch or that night for dinner," Natwick said.
First time scalloper Nick Tulse is taking the Inn up on it's offer.
"Oh no no, you cook 'em," said Tulse.
The captains are also offering recipe ideas.
"You put them in a pan, get it kind of hot, put a little oil in, pour them in and stir them about two minutes they're done," Warhurst offered.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING VIBRIO INFECTIONS
According to the Florida Department of Health, you can lessen your likelihood of becoming infected by doing the following:
- Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
- Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.
- For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least 10 minutes at 375°F.
- Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.
- Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
- Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
- Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.