The Maryland Department of the Environment is lifting shellfish harvesting restrictions for portions of waterways around the state due to recent evaluations showing decreased levels of bacteria. The reclassifications are effective today.
An area of the Wicomico River that forms part of the border between Wicomico and Somerset counties is approved for shellfish harvesting. The area, which is below Bay Point, had previously been classified as restricted, meaning that it had been closed to harvesting.
The headwaters of Broad Creek in Talbot County are reclassified from restricted to conditionally approved, 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.
The headwaters of the Wicomico River that forms part of the border between Charles and St. Mary’s counties is reclassified from conditionally approved to approved. A section of St. Catherine Sound in St. Mary’s County is reclassified from restricted to approved.
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.
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.
For more information on conditional closures of shellfish harvesting waters see the log on MDE’s website.