Portion of waters near Rock Hall opened for shellfish harvesting
Bacteria levels decrease; area approved for harvesting starting Sept. 5
Baltimore, MD (September 2, 2016) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying a portion of the waters near the Rock Hall area of Kent County to allow oysters and clams to be harvested.
The portion of Rock Hall waters that is being reclassified from “restricted” to “approved” for shellfish harvesting is in the Chesapeake Bay, northwest of Rock Hall Harbor. Rock Hall Harbor and nearby Tavern and Swan creeks remain classified as restricted, meaning that they are closed to shellfish harvesting.
The change – which is effective Monday, September 5 – is based on a recent evaluation of potential pollution sources and testing of the waters and shellfish that showed decreased levels of indicator bacteria. It will open 159 acres of waters to shellfish harvesting.
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.
The Department of the Environment 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 and it has a longstanding policy to reopen areas to shellfish harvesting when water quality improves.
Shellfish have 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.