FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
WATERWAYS IN ST. MARY’S COUNTY RECLASSIFIED FOR SHELLFISH HARVESTING
Portion of Carthagena Creek closed to harvesting; Jutland Creek reclassified as “conditionally approved”
BALTIMORE, MD (June 27, 2014) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of two waterways in St. Mary’s County for shellfish harvesting.
A portion of Carthagena Creek that had been approved for shellfish harvesting has been reclassified as restricted, meaning that it is closed to shellfish harvesting. The change, effective Monday, June 30, is due to recent evaluations showing unacceptable bacteria levels in portions of the creek. About 36 acres of the creek are affected by this change. The headwaters of the creek remain closed to shellfish harvesting.
Evaluations of shellfish harvesting waters in Jutland Creek support a reclassification from approved for harvesting to “conditionally approved.” In areas that are conditionally approved oysters and clams can be harvested at any time with the exception of any rain event of one inch or more, which requires that the area be closed for three days and then re-opened unless another rain event occurred during that time. This change, also effective Monday, June 30, affects about 289 acres of waterway.
MDE conducts regular surveys to identify potential pollution sources near shellfish harvesting waters, but the cause of an increase in bacteria levels is not always known, and no specific cause has been identified for the increased levels in Carthagena Creek or Jutland Creek.
Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on MDE’s website. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams); they do not apply to fishing or crabbing. Consumption advisories for recreationally caught fish and crabs can also be found on MDE’s website.
MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish. The Department is required to close areas that do not meet the strict water quality standards for shellfish harvesting waters and it has a longstanding policy to reopen areas to shellfish harvesting when water quality improves.
Shellfish are filter feeders with the ability to filter water and get food from microscopic organisms in the water. If the waters are polluted, this filtering process can concentrate disease-causing organisms associated with raw sewage and other sources, such as animal waste. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted.
These actions are necessary to protect public health by preventing harvest from the areas impacted and ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.