BALTIMORE, MD (October 27, 2009) – Maryland Department of the Environment has reopened a portion of the Choptank River for shellfish harvesting, after recent evaluations showed improvements in bacteria levels in the waterway.
The mainstem of the Choptank River above the Route 50 Bridge from Chancellor Point upstream to Oyster Point was reclassified from restricted to approved for shellfish harvesting, effective October 19, 2009. That section had been closed for harvesting since February 9, 2009, after tests showed elevated bacteria levels.
Waters upstream of Oyster Point remain closed to harvesting. The closures apply to molluscan shellfish harvesting only and do not apply to swimming, fishing, or crabbing.
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 continuance of Maryland’s reputation for safe and wholesome seafood products and maintain 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.
MDE will continue to monitor water quality in the area. A map of the area is available at http://mde.maryland.gov/documents/ChoptankRiver_2009opening_colorwocoord.pdf.
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