New England looking to lift shellfish harvest ban soon

Published on
November 1, 2016

Shellfish harvesting could resume as soon as this week in Massachusetts after being banned for nearly a month, said officials on 28 October.

The shutdown, which began on 7 October, was in response to the discovery of unprecedented levels of toxic algae, which has also affected the states of Maine and Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, waters along the south coast of Cape Cod, including those around the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, are under scrutiny for containing dangerous levels of toxins. Fishers have also been barred from the waters near to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, after an outbreak of norovirus linked to shellfish swept the area, according to The Boston Globe.

Michael Hickey, who oversees shellfish sanitation and management for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, said recent test results have shown improvement in water conditions, and that the state is waiting on more tests before it gives the official go-ahead to reopen the waterways.

“We have to have a series of good tests and a good trend line before that can happen,” Hickey told the Globe.

Stephen Wright, co-owner of the Chatham Shellfish Co. and a board member of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association, said the shutdown has already caused significant financial strain for fishers.

“It’s had a very large economic impact, and it’s put people’s livelihoods at stake,” he told the Globe. “We’re losing out on a lot of business [though] I’ve managed to keep my employees here on a limited basis.”

Rhode Island decided to issue closures in response to the Pseudo-nitzschia algae blooms around the same time as Massachusetts, whereas Maine began issuing shellfish recalls and closures in late September. According to Hickey, in New England, “this is the first time we’ve had a big enough bloom that’s caused closures.”

If humans were to eat the tainted shellfish they could potentially be poisoned and suffer from a variety of symptoms including vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, and, in severe cases, could suffer severe neurological consequences such as permanent memory loss and coma, reported the newspaper.

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