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DEC: Shellfish harvesting OK again in Oyster Bay

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Friday harvesting shellfish in parts of Oyster Bay will again be permitted, effective at sunrise Saturday.

On June 29, the DEC closed about 4,800 acres of lands in Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor to shellfish harvesting to protect public health, according to a DEC statement.

The harvest of shellfish is permitted from 1,300 acres of the normally certified areas of Oyster Bay Harbor (West Harbor), lying west of the Centre Island peninsula.

The harvest of shellfish is still prohibited in all other normally certified shellfish lands in Oyster Bay Harbor, lying south and east of the Centre Island peninsula and all of Cold Spring Harbor lying south of a line extending from Rocky Point (Centre Island) to Whitewood Point (Lloyd Neck).

The DEC said the June closure was implemented after reports of illnesses associated with consumption of oysters and hard clams harvested from these areas. The illnesses were caused by the naturally occurring marine bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp), the state Department of Health confirmed.

When ingested, Vp may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, often accompanied by abdominal cramps, fever and chills. Symptoms usually occur within 24 hours of ingestion, and full recovery may take up to a week. More severe illness may occur in people with compromised immune systems or underlying chronic medical conditions. To greatly reduce the risk of illness from Vp in shellfish, clams, mussels, oysters and scallops should be thoroughly cooked, the DEC said.

Over the past few weeks, the DEC said it collected hard clam and oyster samples from Oyster Bay Harbor for testing at DEC's East Setauket laboratory and at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration laboratory at Dauphin Island, AL. Test results showed that Vp was no longer present in shellfish at levels hazardous to human health.

To reduce the potential for growth of bacteria in shellfish after they are harvested and minimize the risk of illnesses, DEC reminds harvesters to practice good handling measures for temperature control, including:

Keeping shellfish shaded, out of direct sunlight

Keeping shellfish on ice or spraying with cool water from a certified area

Never place shellfish in standing or stagnant water

Get shellfish under refrigeration within 5 hours of the start of harvest

The DEC said it will continue to collect and test shellfish samples from additional areas in eastern Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor to determine the Vp level. When DEC, in consultation with the FDA, determines that Vp is no longer present in shellfish at levels that are hazardous to human health, the remaining normally certified areas of eastern Oyster Bay and Cold Spring harbors will be reopened.

Information about temporary shellfish closures is available via a recorded message at 631-444-0480.

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