BALTIMORE, MD (June 14, 2013) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of the Eastern Bay and Prospect Bay in Queen Anne’s County to allow oysters and clams to be harvested at any time.
Marshy Creek in Prospect Bay, Crab Alley Bay in Eastern Bay and portions of Greenwood Creek, Cox Creek, Thompson Creek and Crab Alley Creek in Eastern Bay are being reclassified as "approved" for shellfish harvesting. These areas were previously "conditionally approved" for shellfish harvesting, meaning that oysters and clams could be harvested at any time with the exception of any rain event of one inch or more requiring that the area be closed for three days then re-opened, unless another rain event occurred during that time. Other areas of the bays remain conditionally approved for harvesting, and areas that were previously classified as "restricted" remain closed to harvesting.
The change – which is effective Monday, June 17 – is based on a recent evaluation of potential pollution sources and testing of the waters and shellfish that showed decreased levels of indicator bacteria.
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.
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.