Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
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In order to meet the 2035 target, over 795 of the closed or conditionally closed acres would need to be upgraded each year (15,907 total acres by 2035). Since 2015, 321 net acres were upgraded in New York and in 2017 39,602 acres in Connecticut were administratively downgraded. Therefore, this target is behind schedule.
In Connecticut, the vast majority of classification changes in 2014 were administrative in nature, rather than resulting from water quality issues impacting shellfish growing areas. For example, there were a number of classification downgrades from Restricted to Prohibited in portions of rivers that are not active shellfish areas and are not able to be sampled at the frequency necessary for the areas to remain active growing areas and resulted in a large reclassification of 5,531.81 acres from Conditionally Approved: Administratively Closed, down to Restricted occurred in Old Saybrook at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Then again in 2017, a formal public notice and downgrade of growing areas in Westbrook, Old Saybrook, and Old Lyme resulted in reclassifying 39,602 acres from ‘Restricted-Relay’ to the “Prohibited classification”. In New York, 364 acres were upgraded in 2015 and in 2018 there was a small expansion to an existing closure due to poor water quality. Occasionally, there are temporary emergency closures related to excessive rainfall events that can temporarily impair water quality. It is standard procedure to close these areas when there are over 3 inches of rainfall.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture has been working over the past several years to re-evaluate shellfish growing area classifications in the State in order to accurately reflect the current designated use of the area and effectively utilize the limited resources of the State, while remaining in compliance with the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). The shellfish growing areas in the waters of Westbrook, Old Saybrook and Old Lyme are no longer assessed by the Bureau, and as a result, must be re-classified immediately to “Prohibited”. All growing areas in Old Saybrook had been placed in the closed status by the Bureau effective 01/02/2009. The 2017 re-classification formally changes the legal descriptions for all waters in these towns to Prohibited.
Shellfish areas can be temporarily closed as a result of naturally occurring pathogen outbreaks and harmful algal blooms. Closures due to shellfish-related foodborne illnesses caused by the naturally occurring (not sewage or pollution-related) marine bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus resulted in the extended closure of Connecticut’s most productive oyster grounds in Norwalk and Westport in both 2012 and 2013. New York’s most productive shellfishing area, Oyster Bay Harbor, was closed for several weeks in 2012. In New York, Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor were closed for several weeks in 2013 after several confirmed Vibrio parahaemolyticus illnesses were traced to those harvest areas. Widespread illness due to a virulent strain of this bacteria plagued the East Coast during the summer of 2013, with other states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia also closing shellfishing areas after experiencing illness outbreaks caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Since the closings in 2013, the NYSDEC implemented a Vibrio parahaemolyticus control plan. No recent outbreaks have occurred.
Not all shellfish area classification changes are due to water quality issues impacting shellfish growing areas. Some shellfish closures are administrative in nature, due to excessive rainfalls or the inability to sample a specific location. For example, the areas around marinas that have more than 10 boats are closed administratively in New York.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CTDOAG) Aquaculture Division regularly monitors shellfish areas for improvements or degradation of water quality and status of pollution sources, and to determine whether its classification for harvesting species should be upgraded or downgraded.
Shellfish beds are regularly monitored to assure that shellfish harvested in commercially and recreationally approved areas are safe to eat.
A variety of shellfish are commercially and recreationally harvested each year from Long Island Sound for human consumption. However, since shellfish are filter feeders, they can become contaminated if they live in polluted water. In order to protect humans from shellfish-borne illness, certain areas in Long Island Sound that have poor water quality are closed to shellfishing. Shellfish beds are regularly monitored by state regulatory agencies to assure that shellfish harvested in commercial and recreationally approved areas are safe to eat. With ongoing efforts to improve water quality, this target will track the progress of increasing the acres in the Sound approved for shellfishing.
Samarra Scantlebury, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation[email protected]
Kathleen Knight, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection[email protected]
Alissa Dragan, CT Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture[email protected]
NYSDEC and CTDOAG
The technical explanation on how the target was selected is found in Appendix B of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
*The NY acreage data was updated to represent the implementation of more precise measuring techniques in early 2019. Thus the 5% target changed from 17,400 acres, listed in the 2015 CCMP and on previous iterations of this page, to 15,907 acres.
**To calculate acreage upgrades for “percent to goal” sum the difference between the current year and baseline (2014) year acreage in every category except uncertified (NY) and prohibited (CT). For example, below is the calculation for NY Upgrades in 2015 (refer to “Approved Shellfish Acreage (NY)” chart above):
(379,296-379,231) + (2,299-2000) = 364 acres upgraded
NYSDEC Shellfish Closures
CTDOAG Shellfish Area Classification and Maps