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For Release: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

DEC Resumes Conditional Shellfishing Programs in Nassau and Suffolk Counties

Special Programs Provide Additional Harvesting Opportunities

A conditional shellfishing program will begin on December 16, 2015 in the East Bay section of Hempstead Bay in the Town of Hempstead, in Nassau County, an area that is usually closed for the harvest of shellfish, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.

This special program, developed by DEC in partnership with the Town of Hempstead, provides additional harvesting opportunities in approximately 630 acres of East Bay. The conditional harvest program for East Bay runs through April 29, 2016. The last time a conditional program operated in Town of Hempstead waters was during the winter of 2007-2008.

Water samples recently collected by Town of Hempstead personnel and examined in DEC's microbiology lab in East Setauket demonstrate that this particular section of East Bay consistently meets the strict bacteriological standards for a certified (open) area, provided there has been no more than 0.15 inches of rainfall locally and the county's Wantagh-Cedar Creek and Bay Park wastewater treatment facilities continue to operate effectively.

Excessive amounts of stormwater runoff can adversely affect water quality, causing elevated levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria and viruses to be taken up by filter feeding shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels. These conditional programs allow the harvest of shellfish during periods of little or no rainfall and runoff when water quality in the areas consistently meets the strict standards for taking shellfish for human consumption.

During the program, Town of Hempstead staff will record local rainfall daily near the conditional area. They use that information to make a decision to designate the East Bay area as open or closed (uncertified) for the harvest of shellfish. When a rainfall reading exceeds 0.15 inches, causing stormwater runoff that can adversely affect water quality, the area is closed for seven (7) days. Local harvesters can learn the daily status of the area by calling the Town of Hempstead at (516) 897-2526 (897-CLAM) after 7:30 a.m.

Similar conditional programs in the Town of Shelter Island (Suffolk County) and the Town of Oyster Bay (Nassau County) started on November 25 and December 11, respectively. Conditional program harvest areas are typically located closer to the shore and provide some degree of protection to harvesters from winter wind and rough seas.

The conditional program in Shelter Island runs through May 13, 2016. That conditional area comprises approximately 113 acres in Dering Harbor and is based on the effective operation of a small wastewater treatment facility in Shelter Island Heights. Harvesters can learn the daily status of that area by calling the town after 8:45 a.m. at (631) 749-0400, then selecting option 9, then option 7.

The conditional harvest area in Oyster Bay comprises approximately 225 acres in southern Oyster Bay Harbor. This program runs through April 15, 2016. The area opens for harvest when there has been no more than 0.50 inches of rainfall locally. The program also requires the effective operation of the local wastewater treatment plant. Local harvesters can learn the daily status of the area by calling the Town of Oyster Bay at (516) 677-5350 after 7:30 a.m.

DEC is currently working with the Towns of Brookhaven and Southampton (Suffolk County) to complete water quality testing in local harbors they recommended that DEC evaluate to determine if specific uncertified areas are also suitable for conditional shellfish harvesting programs.

For more information, contact DEC's Shellfisheries Section during regular business hours at (631) 444-0492. Additional information about shellfishing in New York State is available on DEC's website.

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