The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) last week announced that the harvesting of oysters and hard clams from particular areas in the Town of Huntington is temporarily prohibited, effective at sunrise on Friday, September 5. The closures are due to reports of foodborne illnesses associated with consumption of shellfish from harvest area NS-3. DEC is taking precautionary measures necessary to protect public health until a determination is made that shellfish do not pose a threat to shellfish consumers.

Public domain image/Daderot
Public domain image/Daderot

The ban on the harvest of oysters affects approximately 4400 acres. It includes all of Centerport Harbor, Duck Island Harbor, Northport Bay, Lloyd Harbor and that portion of Huntington Bay lying south of a line extending easterly from Target Rock, near Lloyd Neck, to the north side of the beach pavilion at the Town of Huntington’s Hobart Beach, on Eatons Neck.

The ban on the harvest of hard clams affects approximately 2,300 acres. It includes all of Centerport Harbor, Duck Island Harbor and Northport Bay.

Laboratory tests have determined that a number of the illnesses were caused by the marine bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a naturally-occurring marine bacterium generally associated with warm water conditions. Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is not associated with sewage or stormwater contamination of harvest areas.

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 diseases.

This is the first time that DEC has implemented closures in these areas in Huntington due to Vp illnesses. Closures due to Vp illnesses were implemented in Oyster Bay Harbor in 2012 and in Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor in 2013.

DEC reminds all shellfish harvesters to shade their shellfish catch from the sun. Commercial harvesters should use ice or other means of chilling their catch onboard their harvest boats. Shellfish should be stored in self-draining containers, never in standing or stagnant water.