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Shellfish harvesting halted in Huntington

Bill 'Duckman' Fetzer, a clam digger in Oyster

Bill 'Duckman' Fetzer, a clam digger in Oyster Bay, culls clams during a fierce summer storm. (July 13, 2010)

State officials temporarily shut down shellfish harvest areas in waters off the Town of Huntington Thursday after a potentially lethal toxin was found in shellfish there.

It is the second such closure in Long Island waters this year, following a similar shutdown last week in western Shinnecock Bay.

In the Huntington closure, the state Department of Environmental Conservation shut 2,200 acres of shellfish harvest areas in Northport Bay, Centerport Harbor, Northport Harbor and Duck Island Harbor east of Sand City Beach. Commercial and recreational fishermen harvest clams, mussels and oysters in those areas.

DEC officials said they closed the areas after detecting saxitoxin in shellfish from Northport Bay and Northport Harbor.

Produced by a tiny marine organism known as Alexandrium, the poison accumulates in shellfish as they filter-feed. It can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who ingest tainted tissue.

Saxitoxin was first detected in Long Island waters in 2006. Its presence led officials to close shellfish harvest areas in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, as well as this year.

DEC will reopen the shuttered harvest areas as soon as lab test indicate they are safe. For more information, call 631-444-0480.

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