BALTIMORE, MD (February 17, 2010) – The Maryland Department of the Environment has reopened a portion of St. Clements Bay in St. Mary’s County for shellfish harvesting, after recent evaluations showed improvements in bacteria levels in the waterway.
A portion of St. Clements Bay downstream of Tomakokin Creek, part of Canoe Neck Creek, and part of St. Patrick Creek have been reclassified from closed to open to shellfish harvesting, effective Feb. 15, 2010. Those sections had been closed for harvesting since 1997 after tests showed elevated bacteria levels. The headwaters of St. Clements Bay, Canoe Neck Creek, and St. Patrick Creek will remain closed to harvesting.
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/StClementsBayOpening.pdf
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