Chris Nash, DES: 603-568-6741 or (603) 559-1509
Liza Poinier, NHF&G: (603) 271-3211
May 29, 2009
Atlantic Coast and Hampton/Seabrook Harbor Shellfishing Closed Because of "Red Tide"
CONCORD, N.H. -- To protect the public from the possible consumption of contaminated shellfish, officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department have closed New Hampshire's Atlantic coastal waters, and the waters of Hampton/Seabrook Harbor, to the taking of all species of molluscan shellfish (mussels, clams, oysters) until further notice. This action is in response to elevated levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning or PSP, commonly known as "red tide," detected in blue mussels collected from Hampton/Seabrook Harbor yesterday.
"Red tide toxicity levels are increasing right now in Hampton/Seabrook," said Chris Nash, Shellfish Program Manager for DES. "It is too soon to know how severe this algae bloom will be, or how long it might last." He noted that weekly sampling will continue from now until October.
Blue mussels collected from Hampton/Seabrook last week showed low toxin levels, but two samples collected this week exhibited rising toxin levels. Yesterday's sample was just below the mandatory closure threshold of 80 micrograms of toxin per 100 grams of shellfish tissue. Blue mussels from Star Island, Isles of Shoals, have also exhibited high toxicity levels for most of the month of May. A ban on the harvest of offshore molluscan shellfish was implemented on May 8, 2009.
Other New Hampshire shellfish harvesting areas, including the oyster beds around Nannie Island and Adams Point in Great Bay, are not affected by this PSP closure. Furthermore, the red tide closure does not apply to the harvest or consumption of lobster, although state officials continue to advise consumers to avoid eating lobster tomalley, the soft green substance inside the lobster's body. Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services will continue to monitor shellfish toxicity levels throughout coastal New Hampshire and will implement additional closures as appropriate. Changes to the open/closed status of shellfish waters will be announced on the Clam Flat Hotline (1-800-43-CLAMS) and on the Fish and Game website at www.wildnh.com/Fishing/clam_flat_status.htm.
Red tide is a condition in which filter-feeding shellfish such as clams, oysters, and mussels accumulate a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine algae. Ingesting the toxin is potentially fatal to humans, and cooking does not make contaminated shellfish safe for consumption. For more information on red tide, visit the DES webpage at www.des.nh.gov and look under What's New. The DES Shellfish Program webpage can be accessed at www.des.nh.gov and searching under Programs or the A to Z list.
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