Portions of Wye River Approved for Shellfish Harvesting

September 26, 2017

Maryland Department of the Environment

Area reclassified due to decreased bacteria levels

BALTIMORE (Sept. 25, 2017)

The Maryland Department of the Environment has reclassified a portion of the Wye River in Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties as approved for shellfish harvesting.

The reclassification, which affects about 1,976 acres, is effective today, September 25, 2017. Some portions of the Wye River, Wye East River and Wye Narrows remain restricted to shellfish harvesting.

A portion of the area being reclassified from restricted to approved is designated as an oyster sanctuary by the Department of Natural Resources. The reclassification does not change this designation. Sanctuaries are areas where the wild harvest of oysters is prohibited.

The reclassification of the portion of the Wye River is due to recent evaluations that showed decreased bacteria levels. 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.

The evaluation and classification of waters for shellfish harvesting is necessary to protect public health and ensure Maryland remains in compliance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

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