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Maryland Department of the Environment

Kent Narrows temporarily opening for shellfish harvesting


Jay Apperson

(410) 537-3003

Kent Narrows temporarily opening for shellfish harvesting

Baltimore, MD (Feb. 17, 2016) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is temporarily reclassifying waters in the Kent Narrows in Queen Anne’s County from closed to open to allow oysters and clams to be harvested.

The change is effective Monday, Feb. 20. The opening will remain in effect until the end of the 2017 oyster season (March 31 or an alternate date determined by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources). At that time the area will again be closed to harvesting.

The Kent Narrows are usually closed to shellfish harvesting due to the high volume of boats, marinas and onshore activities in the area with the potential to negatively affect shellfish water quality. However, during winter boating activities are minimal and the effect on water quality is reduced. Watermen from the area contacted the departments of the Environment and Natural Resources to request a seasonal opening of Kent Narrows. An investigation of the water quality shows that this area meets the strict requirements necessary for shellfish harvesting waters. The area was last opened for shellfish harvesting in 2015.

Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on MDE’s website. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams)and 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.