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For Release: Friday, March 30, 2012

DEC Closes Additional Shellfishing Areas in the Town of Hempstead

Shellfish harvesting areas in the Town of Hempstead will close effective April 1, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.

The closure impacts approximately 1,500 acres within South Oyster Bay lying west of the boundary with the Town of Oyster Bay. All shellfish harvesting in these lands will be prohibited until further notice 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."

DEC had previously closed shellfish lands in Hempstead Bay, west of the Wantagh Causeway on February 17, following a determination by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (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. Further testing by DEC determined that additional closures are warranted.

A map showing the temporary emergency shellfish closures is available on DEC's website.

A small area in outer Zachs Bay, adjacent to Jones Beach State Park, will remain certified through May 14. Per regulations, this area becomes seasonally uncertified on May 15 and remains closed to harvesting through September 30.

DEC will continue working with the Town of Hempstead to collect water samples from the area and test these samples in DEC's microbiology laboratory. When a sufficient number of water samples 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 has begun, but is expected to take an additional six months for completion.

An updated, recorded message advising harvesters of the status of these shellfish areas is available: (631) 444-0480.

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