Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today issued an Administrative Order temporarily closing state waters to shellfish harvesting effective sunrise Monday as a precaution due to expected heavy rainfall from Hurricane Sandy.
The precautionary closure affects more than 720,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in the state’s ocean waters and estuaries as well as all recreational harvesting. Bivalves in these beds such as clams, oysters and mussels are filter feeders that can accumulate harmful bacteria carried into waterways.
The DEP will continue to monitor the storm’s track and will make further determinations as necessary. The harvest ban applies only to shellfish such as clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, etc. and does not apply to crustaceans, such as crabs. If the storm doesn’t hit as predicted, the administrative order will be immediately revoked.
The DEP works with the New Jersey Department of Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that shellfish are safely harvested in state waters. The DEP monitors, classifies and enforces shellfish regulations in 425,830 acres of estuarine beds and 295,857 acres of ocean beds.
The New Jersey Department of Health 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.
The program oversees a certification program which requires all wholesale shellfish dealers to handle, process, and ship shellfish under sanitary conditions and maintain records verifying that the shellfish were obtained from approved areas.
For a copy of Commissioner Martin’s Administrative Order, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/bmw
Image courtesy New Jersey DEP