DEC Reopens Shellfishing Areas in Two Suffolk County Towns

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the reopening of approximately 2,200 acres of shellfish harvesting areas in the Town of Huntington. These areas were closed on May 12, 2011, after DEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources detected saxitoxin, a naturally occurring marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, in shellfish harvested in Northport Bay.

Effective at sunrise Friday, June 10, the biotoxin closures for shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters) will be rescinded and all normally certified shellfish lands Northport Bay, Duck Island Harbor and Centerport Harbor will be designated as certified (open) for the harvest of shellfish.

Biotoxin closures affecting approximately 5,300 acres of shellfish harvesting areas in Huntington Bay and Lloyd Harbor, as well as approximately 3,900 acres in western Shinnecock Bay, in the Town of Southampton, were previously rescinded on Monday, June 6.

The decision to reopen these areas was based on the results of extensive testing of shellfish samples. DEC’s microbiology laboratory has tested more than 140 shellfish samples for biotoxin since March and 90 samples since the first closure in early May. Extracts from approximately 25 percent of the post-closure samples were sent to the Maine Department of Marine Resources biotoxin laboratory for additional testing. The Maine laboratory confirmed DEC’s results which showed that biotoxins levels no longer pose a significant public health threat in the reopened areas.

Additionally, the prohibition on the taking of carnivorous gastropods (conch, whelk and other marine snails), implemented on May 20, has also been rescinded for all those bays and harbors.

New York State Department of Health strongly recommends that people not eat the soft green material (mustard, tomalley, liver or hepatopancreas) found in the body section of crabs and lobsters from any waters because cadmium, PCBs and other contaminants as well as toxins produced by some marine algae concentrate there. Because contaminants may be transferred to cooking liquid, people should also discard crab or lobster cooking liquid.

A recorded message advising harvesters of the status of shellfish areas affected by biotoxin and other emergency closures may be heard by calling (631) 444-0480. The message is updated during the course of temporary closures. Additional information will be available on DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7765.html .