BALTIMORE (Sept. 10, 2018)—The Maryland Department of the Environment has reclassified waterways in St. Mary's and Calvert counties for shellfish harvesting.
134 acres of St. Jerome Creek in St. Mary's County have been reclassified from "restricted" to "approved" for shellfish harvesting. This change affects about 49 acres in North Prong and about 86 acres in Taylor Cove. Some portions of the North Prong remain closed to shellfish harvesting.
Two tributaries to the Patuxent River, totaling about 72 acres, have been reclassified from approved for shellfish harvesting to restricted. This change affects about
62 acres of Battle Creek in Calvert County and about
10 acres of Sotterly Creek in St. Mary's County.
All reclassifications are effective Sept. 10, 2018.
The reclassifications are due to recent evaluations of bacteria levels in portions of the waterways. The Department of the Environment conducts regular surveys to identify potential pollution sources near shellfish harvesting waters, but the cause of an increase in bacteria levels is not always known, and no specific cause has been identified for the increased levels in this area.
shellfish harvesting areas is available on the department's website. 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 the department's website.
The Department of the Environment 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.
Shellfish 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 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.
These 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.