The presence of a biotoxin in marine life in some waters in Riverhead town has prompted state environmental officials to temporarily shut down harvesting of shellfish and meat-eating gastropods there.

The move is designed to protect public health, officials said. It comes after tests detected saxitoxin, a marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, in marine life such as whelks, conchs and moon snails, which feed on shellfish and may accumulate levels of biotoxins that are harmful to humans who consume the fish.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said the closure of about 100 acres in the Town of Riverhead covers all the underwater shellfish lands in Terry Creek and Meetinghouse Creek and tributaries of Flanders Bay.

More coverageWater quality on Long Island

A map of the closed areas is available on the DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7765.html.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Officials said they would continue to monitor biotoxins in shellfish at 13 locations around Long Island and take necessary measures, such as closing off areas, and that any closed areas would be opened as soon as biotoxin levels subside to quantities that are healthy for humans.

Harvesters may get status updates of the affected areas by calling 631-444-0480.