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Shellfishing areas closing during Labor Day period, DEC says

A bayman uses a rake to shellfish in

A bayman uses a rake to shellfish in Oyster Bay in 2017. The DEC is temporarily closing shellfishing areas for the Labor Day holiday period. Credit: Barry Sloan

Three North Shore shellfishing areas will be closed temporarily starting Labor Day weekend due to an expected increase in boating activities in those areas — and the potential for increased pollutants being introduced to the water — the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday.

In a statement, NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos urged boaters to use only approved pump-out facilities and said the closures are designed to protect the public from potentially contaminated shellfish.

The areas that will be closed beginning at sunrise on Saturday  through Sept. 4 are: 445 acres in a section of Oyster Bay Harbor; 50 acres in the area known as the Sand Hole; and 347 acres in northern Port Jefferson Harbor. Oyster Bay Harbor is in Nassau. The other two locations are in Suffolk. Shellfish harvesting is expected to resume in these areas on Sept. 5, the DEC said.

Officials said closures may be rescinded based on weather conditions and boat traffic in the specified areas. A recorded message advising the public about temporary closures in New York State can be found 24 hours a day at 631-444-0480. The recorded message also advises harvesters when such areas have reopened.

Information, including maps showing the affected areas, is available on DEC’s website.

“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, and to use pump-out facilities to prevent impacts to our natural resources and protect public health,” Seggos said in a statement.

Since 1995, DEC has designated temporary closures areas during the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays. During peak holiday periods officials said discharges from marine toilets can contaminate nearby shellfish beds with "pathogenic bacteria or viruses, rendering the shellfish unsafe for human consumption."

A full list of No Discharge Zones in New York State, including other Long Island waters, can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

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