Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (May 31, 2011) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has reopened a portion of the Miles River in Talbot County for shellfish harvesting, based on a recent evaluation that showed decreased levels of bacteria in the waters there.

The opening – which became effective yesterday, Monday, May 30 – affects the main stem of the Miles River from Hayward Cove upstream to the Unionville Road (Route 370) bridge. Two tributaries, Hunting Creek and Oak Creek, also reopened to shellfish harvesting starting yesterday.

The portion of the Miles River upstream of the Unionville Road bridge will remain closed to shellfish harvesting.

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. These actions ensure Maryland maintains its reputation for safe and wholesome seafood products and remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

The portion of the Miles River that was reopened had been closed to shellfish harvesting since 2004. Hunting Creek had been closed to harvesting since 1999 and Oak Creek had been closed since 2008. No direct pollution sources were identified; non-point source runoff from the area had been the apparent cause of the elevated bacteria levels. An evaluation completed in May of shellfish harvesting waters in those waterways showed decreased bacteria levels. MDE will continue to monitor water quality in the area.

Shellfish (oysters and clams) 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 viruses or bacteria that are potentially harmful to people. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted.

The decision does not affect fishing or crabbing in the area.

A map of the area is available on MDE’s website. The website also includes a Shellfish Harvesting Waters Conditional Closure Log.

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