Portion of Nanticoke River Reclassified for Shellfish Harvesting
Portion of waterway south of Hatcrown Point closed to harvesting
Baltimore, MD (February 24, 2015) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying a portion of the Nanticoke River in Dorchester and Wicomico Counties for shellfish harvesting.
A portion of the Nanticoke River just south of Hatcrown Point, which had been approved for shellfish harvesting, has been reclassified as restricted, meaning that it is closed to shellfish harvesting. The change is due to recent evaluations showing elevated bacteria levels in portions of the River. About 1,442 acres of water are affected by this change, which is effective today.
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 these areas.
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.