Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (September 30, 2003) – The acting secretary of the environment has reopened the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to oyster harvesting. This clears the way for oyster season to begin as scheduled tomorrow, Oct. 1.

Kendl P. Philbrick, the acting secretary, closed Maryland tidal waters to shellfish harvesting on Sept. 22 after Hurricane Isabel caused sewage overflows, inundation of septic systems and the presence of debris in the bay and its tributaries. But today Philbrick lifted the emergency closure when tests of water quality showed that Isabel’s effects had subsided.

“The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) moved quickly to protect public health after the storm,” Philbrick said. “We have monitored water quality since then and MDE personnel in the field have concluded that the danger has passed.”

Shellfish (oysters and clams) are filter feeders, taking food from the water around them. If the water is polluted, viruses and bacteria harmful to humans can accumulate in the shellfish. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted.

Disease-causing organisms were possibly released from septic and sewer systems during the Isabel-related flooding, and combined with runoff from receding tides, could have polluted waters where shellfish are harvested.

MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish.

The emergency closure did not apply to fishing or crabbing as they are not shellfish, bacteria do not readily accumulate in their tissues and they are rarely eaten raw.

For additional information please call 1 (800) 541-1210.