Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (October 12, 2012) – The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of two waterways for shellfish harvesting.

A portion of Herring Creek in St. Mary’s County will be open to harvesting effective Monday, October 15, 2012. Prior to this reclassification, the area had been conditionally approved” for shellfish harvesting, 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. Recent evaluations of the waterway and its shellfish showed decreased levels of bacteria. The headwaters of Herring Creek remain conditionally approved to shellfish harvesting and Tall Timbers Cove remains closed to shellfish harvesting.

The Battle Creek portion of the Patuxent River in Calvert County and the Hog Neck Creek portion of the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County will be closed to harvesting, also effective Monday, October 15, 2012. Recent evaluations of shellfish harvesting waters in these creeks showed elevated levels of bacteria.

The affected Battle Creek portion is located within a Maryland Department of Natural Resources shellfish sanctuary area and, prior to this reclassification, had been classified as approved for shellfish harvesting. The headwaters of Battle Creek remain closed to harvesting. Prior to this reclassification, Hog Neck Creek had been approved for shellfish 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.