Portions of Nanticoke River, Broad Creek Reclassified for Shellfish Harvesting
Changes effective today
Baltimore, MD (June 1, 2015) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying a portion of the Nanticoke River in Dorchester and Wicomico Counties and portions of Broad Creek in Talbot County for shellfish harvesting.
About 93 acres of waters in Upper Broad Creek and about 108 acres in the San Domingo Creek portion of Broad Creek that had been approved for harvesting have been reclassified as restricted, meaning that they are closed to shellfish harvesting. The change is due to recent evaluations showing elevated bacteria levels in these waters.
Several oyster harvesting leases are located in these waters. Harvesting will not be permitted unless the lease holders apply for a “relay” permit from MDE. That permit would allow oysters to be harvested from restricted areas provided they are moved, or relayed, to another lease in waters approved for harvesting for at least two weeks during a time of year when oysters are actively filtering water. This assures that the oysters naturally cleanse themselves to be harvested and sold to consumers.
In addition, about 193 acres in the Irish Creek portion of Broad Creek will be reclassified from approved 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 occurs during that time.
An evaluation of shellfish waters has led to the reclassification from restricted to approved of about 100 acres of the Nanticoke River. This section is near an existing closure just north of Newfoundland Point.
All changes are effective today, June 1.
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.