Keeping Shellfish Harvests Safer: Toxic Algae Blooms Affecting Shellfish Species


Seasonal Shellfish Harvest Closures

Multiple seasonal shellfish harvest areas closures go into effect starting in April.

Shellfish harvesting areas are monitored year-round to insure that shellfish taken from New York’s marine waters are safe for human consumption. Throughout the year, environmental conditions vary naturally due to changes in temperature, duration and intensity of sunlight, and more human activity. As a result, increased levels of coliform bacteria require that the areas normally open to shellfish harvesting in the winter are then closed during warmer months.

The areas below are closed for shellfish harvesting during the accompanying dates:

Shellfish Harvest AreaClosure Dates
(both dates inclusive)

Little Peconic Bay: Richmond CreekApril 1 - Oct 31

Shelter Island Sound: Gull PondApril 1 - Dec 14

Lake Montauk: southern portionApril 1 - Dec 14

Noyack Bay: Mill CreekApril 1 - Dec 14

Quantuck Bay: Moneybogue Bay, Quantuck Canal,
Quantuck Creek, Aspatuck Creek, Quogue Canal
April 1 - Dec 14

Southold Bay: Goose Creek, Town & Jockey CreekApril 15 - Dec 31

Narrow Bay: easterly of Cranberry Dr. and
westerly of 39 Washington Dr., Mastic Beach
April 15 - Dec 31

Mattituck Inlet, Mattituck CreekApril 16 - Jan 14

Though most seasonally certified shellfish harvest areas close during the spring, a portion of South Oyster Bay has just opened for shellfishing. This area is seasonally closed between December 1st until March 31st (both days inclusive) due to the increased occurrence of seals and waterfowl that utilize that area.

Seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and if you encounter a marine mammal you must stay at least 50 yards (150 feet) away from them at all times. Seals can become stressed and ill if they are approached too closely, so please observe from a safe distance.

Long Island is now entering peak seal pup season and it is completely normal for healthy pups to be seen on beaches. If you see any seals, please call the Riverhead Foundation hotline at (631) 369-9829Please give any seals that you may see plenty of space and do not attempt to touch them.

New Public Shellfish Mapper

It’s extremely important to make sure that you harvest shellfish only from areas that are ‘certified’ as safe for human consumption. Individuals harvesting shellfish from areas that are ‘uncertified’ or ‘closed’ face the possibility of being ticketed and fined, and also are at risk of contracting potential dangerous diseases.

Using our new, interactive NYSDEC Public Shellfish Mapper, you can zoom in on specific locations to get a better understanding of closure boundary lines.

Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program

At the beginning of every spring, DEC resumes its Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program across Long Island to identify where potentially toxic Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) may be occurring, in order to protect the health of shellfish consumers.

Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) are secured in mesh bags and deployed into local waterways in mid-March. With cooperation from several Suffolk County towns and some private marinas, 8 shoreside and 5 buoy monitoring stations have been successfully established. While the mussels are present at these stations they will feed on plankton and may accumulate toxins that exist in the water through the spring.

Tissue from mussels are sampled and tested weekly to determine if toxins reach any unacceptable levels. DEC also collects plankton samples at those monitoring stations and microscopically screens them for the types of algae that may produce toxins.

This program will continue through mid-June until the dinogflagellate, Alexandrium fundyense, which produces the biotoxin we are looking for, becomes less active. Alexandrium prefers cooler water temperatures during the late winter and early spring. As the water starts to warm up, Alexandrium becomes dormant, morphs into a cyst, and falls to the bottom becoming part of the sediment. The cycle then repeats come March when they emerge again as free swimming dinoflagellates in spring of the next year.

For more information on Shellfishing, visit our website or contact 631-444-0492.