All of western Shinnecock Bay and both Meetinghouse Creek and Terry Creek in Aquebogue were closed to shellfishing this week due to high concentrations of saxitoxin in shellfish in those waters.
For Shinnecock Bay, which was closed May 7 west of the Ponquogue Bridge, the 3,900-acre closing is largest acreage of closure since 2012, according to the Long Island Coastal Conservation Reserach Alliance.
Saxitoxin is a compound that can cause paralytic shellfish poison in humans. It is found in the dinoflagelate algae Alexandrium, which tends to bloom heavily in nitrogen-loaded waters.
These three water bodies have suffered from high levels of saxitoxin in the past, though last year’s cool temperatures put a damper on shellfish closures in 2014. Alexandrium blooms tend to begin on Long Island in early May and last for several weeks.
The two creeks in Aquebogue, totalling 100 acres, were closed on May 6. In both areas, all harvesting of shellfish and carnivorous gastropods is prohibited until further notice. Carnivorous gastropods feed on shellfish and may accumulate biotoxins at levels that are hazardous to human health.
The DEC monitors for the presence of biotoxins in shellfish at 13 monitoring locations around Long Island, and plans to continue to monitor closed areas closely over the next several weeks.
A recorded message advising harvesters of the current status of temporarily closed shellfish areas can be found at 631.444.0480.