The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that western Shinnecock Bay in the Town of Southampton is now reopened for the harvest of shellfish and carnivorous gastropods.
The DEC closed the area on May 4, 2017, to protect public health after detecting elevated levels of the marine biotoxin saxitoxin in shellfish in the western part of the bay. Saxitoxin can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in shellfish consumers, and is frequently found in mid-spring in western Shinnecock Bay and other local tributaries.
Effective at sunrise on Friday, June 2, the normally certified shellfishing areas lying west of the Ponquogue Bridge and east of the Post Lane bridge reopened.
DEC has tested shellfish from monitoring sites in Shinnecock Bay on a weekly basis since the area was closed to harvests. The last three samples had low to undetectable levels of saxitoxin, which allowed DEC to reopen the area.
However, effective immediately, DEC has closed all of Mattituck Creek in the Town of Southold to the harvest of carnivorous gastropods such as whelk, conch and moonsnails after finding high levels of marine biotoxin in mussels at the DEC’s monitoring site in the creek.
Carnivorous gastropods feed on shellfish and can accumulate saxitoxin to levels that can potentially cause illness in consumers.
The DEC had closed all of James Creek in Mattituck on May 18 to the harvest of carnivorous gastropods. Both Mattituck and James creeks are closed to the harvest of bivalve shellfish at this time of the year for other water quality reasons.
The DEC plans to re-open areas as soon as possible, based on the results of laboratory analyses that will be conducted over the next few weeks. A recorded message advising harvesters of the status of temporarily closed shellfishing areas may be heard by calling (631) 444-0480. The message will be updated during the course of the temporary closures.
Maps of the affected areas and information about these temporary closures are available on DEC’s website.
Information about marine biotoxins and paralytic shellfish poisoning is also available on DEC’s website.