Somerset Co. Waterway Opened for Shellfish Harvesting - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Somerset Co. Waterway Opened for Shellfish Harvesting

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KINGSTON, Md.- The Maryland Department of the Environment has reclassified a portion of the Big Annemessex River in Somerset County to allow oysters and clams to be harvested at any time.

According to the MDE, the change is based on a recent evaluation that showed decreased levels of bacteria in the waterway. Prior to this reclassification the area had been "conditionally approved" for shellfish harvesting, 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 area affected – the Big Annemessex River downstream of Persimmon Point – was opened to harvesting effective Dec. 31, 2012, through notice to regulating authorities and stakeholders. The change opens about 943 acres of shellfish harvesting waters, including about 53 acres of oyster leases.

The headwaters of the Big Annemessex River remain conditionally approved for shellfish harvesting and Hall Creek remains closed to shellfish harvesting.

Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on MDE's website. According to the MDE, these designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams); they do not apply to fishing or crabbing. Consumption advisories for recreationally caught fish and crabs can also be found on MDE's website.

The MDE monitors bacteriological water quality and conducts pollution source surveys to determine which areas are safe for the harvesting of shellfish. The MDE said it 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.

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