Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (December 10, 1999) – The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) will re-open two areas in Talbot County to shellfish harvesting. Effective Dec. 20, 1999, harvesting of oysters and clams will be permitted in designated sections of the Wye East River and Hunting Creek.

"We are pleased to announce that water quality in these areas has improved to the point at which we can re-open these waters for shellfish harvesting," said MDE Secretary Jane Nishida. "Safe, healthy shellfish are important to Marylanders and our quality of life."

Shellfish, such as oysters and clams, are filter feeders. They filter the water around them to feed on microscopic organisms in the water column. If the waters are polluted, viruses or bacteria that are harmful to humans can be potentially retained in the shellfish. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted.

Maryland participates in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) which has very strict bacteriological water quality standards. MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish. MDE has determined that bacteriological water quality in portions of the Wye River and Miles River meets these strict standards and will open portions of the two watersheds to shellfish harvesting.

In September 1998, MDE closed a portion of the Wye River to shellfish harvesting and, last January, conducted an intensive survey of the area to identify pollution sources in the vicinity. Due to a significant improvement in bacteriological water quality, MDE will open 1,424 acres in the Wye East River, from Dividing Creek downstream to the confluence with the main stem of the Wye River, to shellfish harvesting. The remaining portion of the Wye East River and Wye Narrows will remain restricted. Although bacteriological water quality improved in all the restricted areas, only the lower Wye East River showed enough improvement to open it up to harvesting.

MDE will also open to harvesting 159 acres in Hunting Creek, a small tributary to the Miles River. A recent evaluation of pollution sources and analysis of bacteriological water quality in the lower portion of Hunting Creek showed that water quality meets the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) standards. Other areas previously restricted in the Miles River will remain as currently classified.

None of the current conditions within these watersheds present a significant source of pollution. In addition, MDE continues to conduct routine monitoring of bacteriological water quality.