Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (July 5, 2013) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of two waterways for shellfish harvesting.

portion of the Nanticoke River in Dorchester and Wicomico counties is approved for shellfish harvesting effective Monday, July 8. Prior to this reclassification, the area – from Department of Natural Resources Triangulation Station LOWER 1983 and DNR Triangulation Station PARK 1982 to Hatcrown Point and the opposite shore – had been closed to harvesting. Recent evaluations of the waterway and its shellfish showed decreased levels of bacteria. The headwaters of the Nanticoke River remain closed to shellfish harvesting.

The area closed to shellfish harvesting near Rock Hall in Kent County will be extended effective Monday, July 8. Rock Hall Harbor, Tavern Creek and Swan Creek have been and remain closed to harvesting. The closed area will be extended to the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay to include an area north of a line from Swan Point to United States Coast Guard Buoy 1 and west of a line from that buoy to Windmill Point. Recent evaluations of shellfish harvesting waters in these creeks showed elevated levels of bacteria. MDE 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 in this instance.

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.