BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of the Environment is reclassifying portions of two waterways for shellfish harvesting that were previously closed due to sanitation issues.
Effective Monday, a portion of the Nanticoke River — from the Department of Natural Resources Triangulation Station LOWER 1983 and DNR Triangulation Station PARK 1982 to Hatcrown Point and the opposite shore — in Dorchester and Wicomico counties is approved for shellfish harvesting.
Recent evaluations of the waterway and its shellfish showed decreased levels of bacteria, according to MDE.
However, the headwaters of the Nanticoke River will stay closed to shellfish harvesting.
The area closed to shellfish harvesting near Rock Hall in Kent County will be extended effective Monday.
Rock Hall Harbor, Tavern Creek and Swan Creek have been and will stay closed to harvesting, and the closed area will be extended to the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay to include an area north of a line from Swan Point to United States Coast Guard Buoy 1 and west of a line from that buoy to Windmill Point.
Recent evaluations of shellfish harvesting in water in the creeks near Rock Hall showed elevated levels of bacteria, according to MDE, and though MDE conducts regular surveys to identify potential pollution sources near shellfish harvesting water, no specific cause has been identified.
These designations only apply to the harvesting of oysters and clams and don't apply to fishing or crabbing.
MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for harvesting shellfish. The department is required to close areas that don't meet the strict water quality standards for shellfish harvesting waters and it has a policy to reopen areas to shellfish harvesting when water quality improves.
Since shellfish are filter feeders with the ability to filter water and get food from microscopic organisms in the water, if the water is polluted, the filtering process can concentrate disease-causing organisms associated with raw sewage and other sources, like animal waste, according to MDE.
Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from water that isn't polluted, MDE stated.
MDE also stated the actions are necessary to protect public health by preventing harvest from the areas impacted and ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
Email me at email@example.com