Commercial shellfish beds in all but the northern portion of Delaware Bay are now open to harvesting, the Department of Environmental Protection announced today. Shellfish beds from Beadon Point north to Ben Davis Point in the upper Delaware Bay were reopened today following tissue sample results that meet federal health standards.
The area from Ben Davis Point to Artificial Island at the neck of the bay will remain closed until shellfish tissue samples return to acceptable levels. The DEP will take another round of tissue samples in this area on Monday.
The DEP reopened a vast majority of the beds in the lower bay, a large area from Cape May Point to Beadon Point in Cumberland County, on Sept. 9. Beds along the Atlantic coast have also been reopened since early September.
“The shellfish industry is vital to communities along Delaware Bay and is a significant contributor to New Jersey’s overall economy,” Commissioner Bob Martin said. “The industry was an invaluable partner in ensuring the beds were reopened safely.”
The DEP closed all New Jersey shellfish beds to commercial and recreational harvesting on Aug. 27 in preparation for Hurricane Irene, due to concerns over degradation of water quality from anticipated large volumes of stormwater. The bay continued to be affected by large amounts of stormwater in the Delaware River from Irene and subsequent storms, including Tropical Storm Lee.
Clams and oysters, like other bivalves such as mussels, are filter feeders that can accumulate harmful bacteria carried into waterways by stormwater. The harvest ban did not affect crabs or lobsters.
The DEP monitors, classifies and enforces shellfish regulations in 425,830 acres of estuarine beds and 295,857 acres of ocean beds. Beds in Delaware Bay are nearly exclusively oyster beds, while the beds along the coast are primarily clam beds with some oyster beds.
The Department of Health and Senior Services Food Safety Program regularly inspects shellfish processing plants to ensure they follow regulations that outline health and safety precautions. Shellfish samples are regularly collected from harvest areas, certified shellfish dealers and retailers for bacteriological examination.
For more information, including a map of reopened shellfish beds, visit www.nj.gov/dep/bmw.