The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) reclassifications affect portions of St. Mary’s River; portions of waterways in Dorchester, Somerset counties also reclassified.
Effective May 30, 2022, portions of waterways in Dorchester, Somerset, and St. Mary’s counties were reclassified to restrict shellfish harvesting due to environmental and public health concerns. These actions were take to ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).
NSSP is the federal/state cooperative program recognized by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. The purpose of the NSSP is to promote and improve the sanitation of shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) moving in interstate commerce through federal/state cooperation and uniformity of State shellfish programs.
According to the MDE press release, the areas affected are as follows:
About 260 acres of waters in the St. Mary’s River will be reclassified from conditionally approved for direct shellfish harvesting to restricted from shellfish harvesting. Another 165 acres of the river’s tributaries, in two separate areas, will be reclassified from approved to conditionally approved.
Also, about 155 acres in the Honga River in Dorchester County will be reclassified from approved to conditionally approved. In areas that are conditionally approved, oysters and clams can be harvested at any time with the exception of any rain event of one inch or more, which requires that an affected area be closed for three days and then re-opened unless another rain event occurred during that time. A restricted classification means that no direct harvest of oysters or clams is permitted. The reclassifications are effective May 30.
About 80 acres of the Hall Creek portion of the Annemessex River in Somerset County are also being reclassified. Shellfish harvesting in that area had been prohibited due to its proximity to the Fairmount Wastewater Treatment Plant. That plant has been decommissioned and is no longer discharging to the river, and sufficient time has passed that the waters can be reclassified based on water quality. The bacteria levels in the area meet the standard for a restricted classification, which is also effective May 30.
Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on the department’s website and automatically updated on the mobile app iShellfish. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams); they do not apply to fishing or crabbing.