Why are the clamming beds closed and when will they re-open?

Shellfish Survey"The clamming beds on the west side of Long Beach have been closed now for a few years. I have asked harbormaster staff on occasion if they know when it will reopen. They have responded they do not know when, even though they regularly test clams from that area which result in favorable results. Why are the clamming beds closed and when will they re-open?"

Growing area classifications are assigned based on the results of sanitary surveys done by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), not individual towns. The classification determines whether or not shellfish in the area can be harvested for human consumption.

In Massachusetts, there are five classifications:

  • Approved: Open to shellfish harvesting/or direct human consumption subject to local rules and regulations. Closed only during major coast-wide events (e.g., hurricane, oil spill, red tide event).
  • Conditionally Approved: Closed some of the time due to rainfall or seasonally poor water quality or other predictable events. When open, it is treated as an Approved area.
  • Restricted: Contains a limited degree of contamination at all times. When open, shellfish can be relayed to a less contaminated area or harvested for depuration.
  • Conditionally Restricted: Contains a limited degree of contamination at all times. Subject to intermittent pollution events and may close due to poor water quality from rainfall events or season. When open, only commercial harvesting of soft shell clams for depuration is allowed
  • Prohibited: Closed to the harvest of shellfish under all conditions, except the gathering of seeds for municipal propagation programs under a DMF permit.

The inner harbor is identified by DMF as CCB42.l (majority of the inner harbor) and CCB42.2 (the small section along Long Beach that had been re-opened for a few years) and is classified as Prohibited CCB is Cape Cod Bay. CCB42.2 along Long Beach was classified as Prohibited due to recent determinations by the FDA. The FDA has been working with state agencies like DMF on new restrictions for shellfish harvesting when these areas are in close proximity to wastewater outfalls. Because of the presence of the Town's wastewater outfall pipe in the harbor and these new FDA regulations DMF re-classified the area as Prohibited It is important to note that the Sanitary Surveys sample bacteria and the concern for FDA in regards to wastewater outfalls are viruses and other pathogens and not bacteria. Hence an area can have low bacteria counts which in the past would have allowed harvesting to occur can now be close to an outfall pipe which results in it being a prohibited area now. I would not envision this classification changing unless and until the outfall into the harbor is discontinued.

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1. Why are the clamming beds closed and when will they re-open?