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Maryland Department of the Environment

St. Mary’s Co. Waterway Reclassified to Restrict Shellfish Harvesting


Jay Apperson

(410) 537-3003

St. Mary’s Co. Waterway Reclassified to Restrict Shellfish Harvesting

Portion of Herring Creek closed to harvesting

Baltimore, MD (May 26, 2017) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is closing a portion of a waterway in St. Mary’s County to shellfish harvesting.

A portion of Herring Creek is being reclassified from “conditionally approved” for shellfish harvesting to “restricted,” effective Monday, May 29. A restricted classification means shellfish cannot be harvested from the area.

The reclassification is due to recent evaluations showing unacceptable bacteria levels in portions of the waterway. 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 these areas.

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 reopened unless another rain event occurred during that time. The waters of Tall Timbers Cove remain restricted to shellfish harvesting. Portions of Herring Creek that are downstream of the area now being closed to harvesting remain approved for harvesting.

Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on the department’s website. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams) and do not apply to swimming, 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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