Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (August 17, 2012) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of two waterways for shellfish harvesting.

A portion of Monie Bay in Somerset County that has been classified as restricted, meaning that it has been closed to shellfish harvesting, will be open to harvesting effective Monday, August 20, 2012. Recent evaluations of the waterway and its shellfish showed decreased levels of bacteria. The area affected is from Victor Neck upstream to the mouth of Monie Bay. The headwaters of Monie Bay to Victor Neck remain closed to shellfish harvesting.

A portion of Cuckhold Creek in Charles County will be closed to harvesting, also effective Monday, August 20, 2012. A recent evaluation of shellfish harvesting waters there showed elevated levels of bacteria. The area affected is from the mouth of Perry Branch upstream to the mouth of and including Middletown Branch. The area has been classified as “conditionally approved," meaning that oysters and clams cannot be harvested for three days following a rainfall event of one inch or greater over 24 hours but can be harvested at all other times.

The headwaters of Cuckhold Creek remain closed to harvesting. Perry Branch and the portion of Cuckhold Creek from Perry Branch to the mouth of the creek remain conditionally approved for harvesting.

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.