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For Release: Friday, August 16, 2013

DEC Partially Rescinds Shellfish Closure in the Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that the harvesting of shellfish from a specific north shore area in the Town of Oyster Bay is permitted, effective at sunrise, Saturday, August 17.

On June 29, approximately 4,800 acres of shellfish lands in Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island were closed for the harvest of shellfish by DEC as a precautionary measure to protect public health. This closure was implemented following reports of shellfish-related illnesses that were associated with consumption of oysters and hard clams harvested from these areas. The illnesses were caused by the naturally-occurring marine bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) as confirmed by the State Department of Health.

When ingested, Vp may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, often accompanied by abdominal cramps, fever and chills. Symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of ingestion, and full recovery may take up to a week. More severe illness may occur in people with compromised immune systems or underlying chronic medical conditions. To greatly reduce the risk of illness from Vp in shellfish, all shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops) should be thoroughly cooked.

Over the last few weeks, DEC collected hard clam and oyster samples from Oyster Bay Harbor for testing at DEC's East Setauket laboratory and at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) laboratory at Dauphin Island, AL. Test results showed that Vp was no longer present in shellfish at levels that are hazardous to human health.

Based on these findings, DEC has partially rescinded the closure order that was implemented on June 29. The harvest of shellfish is permitted from approximately 1,300 acres of the normally certified areas of Oyster Bay Harbor (West Harbor), lying westerly of the Centre Island peninsula.

The harvest of shellfish continues to be prohibited in all the other normally certified shellfish lands in Oyster Bay Harbor, lying southerly and easterly of the Centre Island peninsula and all of Cold Spring Harbor lying southerly of a line extending from Rocky Point (Centre Island) to Whitewood Point (Lloyd Neck).

To reduce the potential for growth of bacteria in shellfish after they are harvested and thereby minimize the risk of future illnesses, DEC reminds shellfish harvesters to practice good post-harvest handling measures for temperature control, including:

  • Keeping shellfish shaded, out of direct sunlight
  • Keeping shellfish on ice or spraying with cool water from a certified area
  • Never place shellfish in standing or stagnant water
  • Get shellfish under refrigeration within 5 hours of the start of harvest

DEC will continue to collect and test shellfish samples from additional areas in eastern Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor to determine the level of Vp present in shellfish. When DEC, in consultation with the FDA, determines that Vp is no longer present in shellfish at levels that are hazardous to human health, the remaining normally certified areas of eastern Oyster Bay and Cold Spring harbors will be re-opened.

Additionally, information about temporary shellfish closures is available through a recorded message at (631) 444-0480. That message is updated when changes are made to temporary closures.

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