New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced regulations-effective immediately-to certify and open 6,211 acres of shellfish harvest areas in several bays and harbors in Nassau and Suffolk counties. DEC conducts year-round water quality sampling in order to determine shellfish harvest area classifications annually. Shellfish may only be harvested from open (certified) waters that meet New York State’s strict bacteriological standards for shellfish harvesting. In addition to opening areas to shellfish harvest, DEC reclassified 833 acres of shellfish harvest areas to closed (uncertified) year-round or seasonally uncertified to protect the health of shellfish consumers.
“The regulations released today open more than 6,200 acres of new shellfish harvest areas in New York State waters, benefiting commercial and recreational shellfish harvesters around Long Island and highlighting the importance of improving and protecting water quality along our shores,” said Commissioner Seggos. “DEC remains committed to advancing efforts to improve and enhance water quality in the marine environment and appropriately reclassifying shellfish harvest areas to help ensure the state’s shellfish industry remains viable while protecting the public health of shellfish consumers.”
DEC upgraded to certified and seasonally certified a total of 6,211 acres of shellfish harvest areas:
Acres Uncertified (closed) to Certified (open year-round): 6,152
Acres Uncertified to Seasonally Certified (open to harvest a portion of the year): 53
Acres Seasonally Certified to Certified: 6
A total of 6,152 acres upgraded to open year-round after being closed are in Long Island Sound, adjacent to the towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. This area accounts for the largest acreage being opened for shellfish harvest. The newly opened area in Long Island Sound is State-owned underwater lands, providing opportunities to all shellfish harvesters in the state. The commercial and recreational harvest of shellfish-clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops-is consistent with daily harvest limits and size limits.
DEC had expanded water quality monitoring efforts in Long Island Sound as a result of improvements in water quality samples taken from surrounding water bodies over the previous four years. Monitoring efforts show that levels of fecal bacteria in this portion of Long Island Sound consistently meet stringent state and federal standards for a certified and open shellfish harvest area, allowing DEC to open this area for the harvest of shellfish.
A total 833 acres of shellfish harvest areas reclassified to restrict shellfish harvest are:
Acres Certified to Seasonally Certified: 504
Acres Certified to Uncertified: 247
Acres Seasonally Certified to Uncertified: 82
The portions of Long Island Sound in Westchester County and west of Prospect Point will remain uncertified and closed to shellfish harvest on a year-round basis.
DEC will continue to monitor water quality of these reclassified areas and other certified and seasonally certified areas, comprising nearly one million acres in New York’s marine district, as part of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. DEC updates classifications of shellfish harvest areas to protect public health and provide harvesting opportunities for commercial and recreational shellfish harvesters as water quality conditions warrant.
New York State leads the nation with the largest annual investment in water quality infrastructure of any state and continues to increase investments for clean water infrastructure projects, including the State’s unprecedented $4 billion budget appropriation for grants to help ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water. New York also manages the largest low- and zero-interest loan fund in the nation, with annual clean water infrastructure financings in excess of $1 billion. Working with local and county partners, New York has introduced programs to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen entering the water, including generational investments to reduce nitrogen pollution in marine waters like the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and the replacement of aging septic and cesspool systems (leaves DEC’s website) like those announced last month by Governor Hochul.
DEC has notified all 2021 shellfish digger permit holders that reside in towns affected by the reclassifications. These notices provide information about the changes and maps showing new closure lines. Visit DEC’s website for a complete list of harvest area descriptions, or visit DEC Shellfish Public Mapper for an interactive map of harvest areas.
The regulations adopting the changes announced today were effective immediately on Nov. 22, and are expected to be published in the Dec. 8, 2021, edition of the New York State Register. Text descriptions and maps of all uncertified areas are available on DEC’s website. Written comments on the regulations can be sent through Feb. 7, 2022, to Matt Richards, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 123 Kings Park Blvd., Kings Park, NY 11754 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about shellfish safety and New York’s role in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, visit DEC’s website. DEC’s Shellfisheries office can also be reached at (631) 444-0492 for further information.