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DEC bans some Southampton area shellfishing

The harvesting of shellfish and some creatures that feed on them has been temporarily banned in about 490 acres of water off Southampton Town after a marine biotoxin was detected, state officials said Thursday.

Saxitoxin, which damages nerve function in humans, was found in shellfish from a monitoring site in Sag Harbor Cove, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which samples the marine life for the toxin. The temporary ban covers shellfish and carnivorous gastropods, which includes whelks, moon snails, conches and other marine life that feed on the shellfish.

The waters affected are all of Sag Harbor Cove, Upper Sag Harbor Cove and their tributaries lying west of the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, the Route 114 bridge.

Earlier this month, the DEC closed areas other Long Island areas, including 3,900 acres off Southampton and Riverhead, as well as Southold, western Shinnecock Bay, Northport Harbor and Northport Bay.

Laboratory analyses over the next few weeks will help DEC officials decide when to reopen the waters.

Usually, such closures don't start until mid-May, but this year's warmer temperatures in winter led to the early blooming of the algae Alexandrium, which produces saxitoxin.

A recorded message on the status of temporarily closed areas may be heard at 631-444-0480 and updates on closures may be viewed at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/35917.html.

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