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For Release: Friday, February 17, 2012

DEC Closes Shellfishing Areas in the Town of Hempstead

Shellfish harvesting areas in the Town of Hempstead will close effective tomorrow, February 18, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced today.

The closure impacts approximately 7,100 acres, covering all the underwater lands in Hempstead Bay lying west of the northbound lanes of Wantagh Parkway. All shellfish harvesting in these lands will be prohibited until further notice in an effort to protect public health.

"This is an unfortunate but necessary step that we must take to safeguard public health and ensure the vast majority of New York's shellfishing industry is not affected," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "We will work to re-open the beds as swiftly as possible."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the closures following determinations by FDA and DEC laboratory evaluators that water quality data provided to DEC by the Town of Hempstead's laboratory are not reliable. FDA advised DEC that failure to close the areas promptly could effectively prevent the sale of all New York state shellfish products in interstate commerce.

A map showing the affected areas of the Temporary Emergency Shellfish Closures will be posted on the DEC website later today.

The normally certified shellfishing areas within the Town of Hempstead, lying east of the Wantagh Parkway, are not affected by this closure. Samples from that area had been collected and tested by the DEC's Bureau of Marine Resources.

DEC plans to work with the Town of Hempstead to collect water samples from the area for testing in DEC's microbiology laboratory. When a sufficient number of water sampling runs have been conducted over a range of environmental conditions, the new water quality data will be analyzed to determine which sections of Hempstead Bay may be re-opened to shellfishing. This process is expected to take at least seven months.

A recorded message, which will be updated later today, advising harvesters of the status of these shellfish areas may be heard by calling (631) 444-0480.

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