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The group wants to prevent the MSX infection from spreading in oysters and other shellfish. (AP)

P.E.I. oyster growers are calling on the provincial government to ban the importation of live shellfish as a preventive measure against a potential infection of MSX.

The MSX parasite invades the tissues of an oyster, then multiplies and spreads. It causes tissue damage and a gradual weakening of the oyster over several months.

"It literally kills and annihilates the shellfish," said Bill Warren, an oyster fisherman. "It takes years to rebuild it. You have got to look at saving the industry now versus trying to look after it after it's there, and you've lost your industry."

Delegates attending the recent Island Oyster Growers Group annual general meeting in Summerside were unanimous about the need for a shellfish importation ban as a means of protecting their industry.

They want the ban to include mussels, clams, quahogs and oysters from other areas.

They note infestations have caused serious damage to oyster industries in parts of the United States and in Cape Breton.