Of Life and Limb: The Failure of Florida's Water Quality Criteria to Test for Vibrio Vulnificus in Coastal Waters and the Need for Enhanced Criteria, Regulation, and Notification to Protect Public Health
The nefarious duo of warming oceans and rising sea levels has created a menacing yet lesser-known climate change-induced problem: an increase in sea-borne diseases. For most, the biggest concern when diving into the ocean is a possible, though exceedingly rare, shark encounter; however, it is the unexpected, unseen risk of Vibrio vulnificus that poses the greater danger. Part I of this paper discusses Vibrio vulnificus cases along the coasts of Florida, examining both the illnesses that were contracted through exposure of open wounds to seawater and those contracted through the consumption of raw oysters from the Gulf Coast. Part II analyzes existing federal and state regulations regarding water quality along the coasts, including regulatory bodies that have sprung into existence to combat water quality issues and the procedures used to test coastal waters for the presence of bacteria. It also addresses the regulations governing shellfish harvesting and consumption, from Florida's cooperation with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) to consumer advisories that are now mandated by the state. Part II concludes with a discussion of the procedure for warning the public of Vibrio along the coasts. Part III introduces the stringent regulation of raw oyster sales and consumption in California and the effect these regulations have had on reported cases of raw oyster-associated illness from Vibrio bacteria. Part IV proposes several methods by which existing laws and regulations could be amended or enhanced to better protect the public against the risk posed by Vibrio vulnificus.
Felicia Thomas, Of Life and Limb: The Failure of Florida's Water Quality Criteria to Test for Vibrio Vulnificus in Coastal Waters and the Need for Enhanced Criteria, Regulation, and Notification to Protect Public Health, 7 Sea Grant L. & Pol'y J. 1 (2016).