Waterways in Talbot, St. Mary’s counties reclassified for shellfish harvesting

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Jay Apperson

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Waterways in Talbot, St. Mary’s counties reclassified for shellfish harvesting

Portions of Broad, San Domingo creeks approved for harvesting, part of Breton Bay closed

Baltimore, MD (Nov. 4, 2016) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has reclassified three waterways in Talbot and St. Mary’s counties for shellfish harvesting.

Portions of Broad Creek and San Domingo Creek in Talbot County, totaling about 450 acres, have been reclassified from “conditionally approved” for shellfish harvesting to “approved.” A 210-acre portion of Breton Bay in St. Mary’s County has been reclassified from conditionally approved to “restricted.”

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 an affected area be closed for three days and then re-opened unless another rain event occurred during that time. A restricted classification means shellfish cannot be directly harvested from the area.

These changes are effective Nov. 7. There are no leases in the newly restricted area.

The reclassifications are due to recent evaluations of bacteria levels in portions of the waterways. The Department of the Environment 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 this area.

Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on the department’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 the department’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 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.

 

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