NY: DEC to Reopen 3,200 Acres of Shellfishing Areas Most after 40 Years of Closure

Citing the positive results of sanitary surveys, water quality
monitoring and shellfish tissue testing, New York State Department
of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today
announced proposed regulations to reopen shellfish harvesting areas
in approximately 3,200 acres in several bays and harbors around
Long Island in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

“Opening these valuable beds around Long Island is not only a
big win for commercial and recreational shellfishing but also an
economic boost for the industry and towns in these areas,” said
Commissioner Martens. “These new marine resources are the result of
a variety of environmental projects that have taken place over
recent decades to protect and restore New York’s coastal
waters.”

The largest reopening is proposed for an area adjacent to the
Towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. Testing of water samples
conducted over more than five years showed levels of fecal bacteria
in approximately 2,500 acres of outer Hempstead Harbor and Long
Island Sound are meeting the stringent state and federal standards
for a certified (open) shellfishing area. Additionally, hard clam
samples from the area were tested for the presence of various
metals, PCBs, dioxins, furans, pesticides, and radioactive
elements. The data as reviewed by the New York State Health
Department concluded that the potential exposure from eating
shellfish from the newly certified waters was not be a health
concern.

With the elimination of many industrial uses around the harbor
over the past forty years (e.g., conversion of the Roslyn
wastewater treatment plant to a pump station) and numerous water
quality improvement efforts, natural processes have renewed and
improved the harbor’s ecosystem. Through the Water Quality
Improvement Project (WQIP) program, DEC has used funding from the
Environmental Protection Fund and 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond
Act to provide approximately $8 million to area municipalities to
conduct a number of projects that improved Hempstead Harbor’s water
quality (e.g., Glen Cove wastewater treatment plant upgrade plus UV
disinfection, new sewers in the Village of Sea Cliff and Town of
North Hempstead). Many municipalities around the Harbor (and across
the state) have implemented Stormwater Management Program Plans to
reduce the impact of runoff on local water bodies. Among recent
actions contributing to the opening of the outer Hempstead Harbor
to shellfishing is the establishment of a vessel waste No Discharge
Zone for the Harbor in 2008. As a result, DEC will now be able to
open this shellfishing area.

DEC’s regulations will reclassify approximately 2,500 acres of
underwater lands to certified year-round for shellfish harvesting.
Since the affected area is state owned, anyone may harvest
shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels and scallops) consistent with
daily harvest limits and size limits for the various types of
shellfish (Shellfish Harvest Limits), after the proposed
regulations are adopted following a public comment period. However,
the inner portion of Hempstead Harbor and three tributaries (East
Creek, West Pond and Dosoris Pond) that empty into outer Hempstead
Harbor will remain uncertified (closed) to shellfishing.

For more information on the regulatory changes including colored
maps identifying these areas, visit Regulatory Changes on the DEC
website.

The DEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) initiated a sanitary
survey of the area in August 2004, after observing commercial
shellfish harvesters working in Long Island Sound, just east of
Matinecock Point. Routine water quality monitoring conducted over
the next four years indicated that water quality in outer Hempstead
Harbor was meeting the bacteriological criteria for certified
areas, where shellfish can be taken for human consumption. FDA
assisted with a required dye study. BMR also worked cooperatively
with the Town of Oyster Bay and the Coalition to Save Hempstead
Harbor to collect and examine additional water samples to evaluate
the effects that significant volumes of non-point source runoff
after moderate to heavy rainfall events had on water quality in
outer Hempstead Harbor. This reclassification will reopen areas of
outer Hempstead Harbor that have been closed to shellfishing for
more than 40 years. The map and additional information for the
proposed reopening of Hempstead Harbor is available at DEC’s
website.

Below are the openings in the other five towns in Nassau and
Suffolk Counties where an additional 700 acres are being
upgraded:

* In the Town of Southold (Hashamomuck Pond), approximately 18
acres of uncertified underwater lands will be designated as
seasonally certified from December 1 through April 30,
annually.

* In the Town of Southold (Mattituck Creek), approximately 40 acres
of uncertified underwater lands will be designated as seasonally
certified from January 15 through April 15, annually.

* In the Town of Southampton (Shinnecock Canal), approximately 19
acres of seasonally uncertified underwater shellfish lands will be
designated as certified year round.

* In the Town of Riverhead (Flanders Bay-Kings Creek),
approximately 10 acres of seasonally uncertified underwater
shellfish lands will be designated as certified year round.

* In the Town of Brookhaven (Patchogue Bay), approximately 608
acres of uncertified underwater lands will be designated as
certified year round.

* In the Town of Oyster Bay (Oyster Bay Harbor), approximately 18
acres of seasonally uncertified underwater lands will be designated
as certified year round.

DEC will continue monitoring the water quality of these
reclassified areas and other certified and seasonally certified
areas, comprising nearly 1 million acres in New York’s marine
district, as part of its participation in the National Shellfish
Sanitation Program. As conditions warrant, DEC will make changes to
the classification of shellfish lands to protect the health of
shellfish consumers and provide additional harvesting opportunities
for commercial and recreational shellfishers.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available in the March 9,
2011 edition of the State Register at
www.dos.state.ny.us/info/register.htm. Proposed regulations for the
changes in the other towns appeared in the Dec. 29, 2010 edition of
the State Register. Proposed regulations are also posted on DEC’s
website. DEC’s Shellfisheries office can also be reached at (631)
444-0475 for further information.

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