For the 23rd year in a row, shellfishing will be barred at three sites on Long Island’s North Shore over the July Fourth holiday as a rise in boating raises the potential for sewage contamination, officials said.
Boaters who empty toilets into the Sound can pollute nearby shellfish beds “with pathogenic bacteria or viruses, rendering the shellfish unsafe for human consumption,” the Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement.
“We strongly encourage boaters to act responsibly and be aware of the no-discharge zones in Port Jefferson Harbor, Oyster Bay Harbor, and the Sand Hole in the Town of Huntingtonand to use pump-out facilities to prevent impacts to our natural resources and protect public health,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The DEC said it has relied on this way of keeping the public safe since 1995. The same temporary suspension of shellfishing also applies over the Labor Day weekend.
Experts noted it can be difficult to catch violators in the act as the offenses occur under water — and sometimes at night.
Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, noted the temporary closures are a precaution.
“Even though they [boaters] are not supposed to, there’s always that potential,” he said.
Boaters who tie their boats together — and then empty the holding tanks, often at night, — are among the possible culprits, he said.
Swenson said they may not wish to inconvenience the neighboring boats by asking them to unmoor so they can go to pump-out stations, which are typically free.
Though not a problem in Hempstead Harbor, these kinds of recreational boaters can gather in Oyster Bay, for example, he said.
The DEC said it is stopping shellfishing from after sunrise on Saturday through next Sunday at these locations:
- 445 acres in a section of Oyster Bay Harbor, Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County
- 50 acres in the area known as the Sand Hole in the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County
- 347 acres in northern Port Jefferson Harbor in the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County
The suspensions should end on Monday, July 9, unless poor weather keeps boaters at home, which might allow the DEC to reopen them earlier, the department said.
Boaters should use pump-out facilities in Oyster Bay Harbor (West Harbor), The Sand Hole (Lloyd Neck) and Port Jefferson Harbor.