BALTIMORE- Unacceptable bacteria levels have prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to close portions of the Wye River in Queen Anne's and Talbot counties to shellfish harvesting.
MDE said the closure went into effect Monday, June 11, through notice to regulating authorities and stakeholders. The closure is to remain in effect until further notice.
The areas that have been closed include parts of the Wye East River, Wye Narrows, and the main stem of the Wye River. In addition, a small area in the Wye River that had been closed to shellfish harvesting when commercial fishing vessels were docked there will be reclassified as approved because the area is no longer used to dock fishing vessels, according to the Maryland Natural Resources Police.
MDE said a shoreline survey of potential sources of bacteria contamination was completed for each site and no direct pollution sources were identified. MDE said it will continue to investigate potential pollution sources and monitor shellfish water quality in the area. Once bacteria levels improve, MDE will reopen them to harvesting.
The closure will impact molluscan shellfish harvesting (oysters and clams) only and does not apply to swimming, fishing or crabbing in these areas. Consumption advisories for recreationally caught fish and crabs can also be found on MDE's website. The Wye River is included in areas with advisories for the consumption of striped bass and blue crab "mustard."
Shellfish are filter feeders with the ability to filter water and get food from microscopic organisms in the water. MDE said that if the waters are polluted, this filtering process can concentrate disease-causing organisms associated with raw sewage and other sources, such as animal waste. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted, according to MDE.
MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish. Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on MDE's website.
MDE said this closure is necessary to protect public health by preventing harvest from the area impacted and ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.
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