Toxins Prompt Flanders, Shinnecock Bay Shellfish Ban

Oysters Shellfish
Oysters, Photo: Oliver Peterson

New York State officials temporarily banned harvesting shellfish from Flanders Bay and western Shinnecock Bay after mussels recently tested positive for marine biotoxins that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), officials said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued the alert after the Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program from monitoring sites in Meetinghouse Creek and Shinnecock Bay tested positive for saxitoxin, a marine biotoxin that causes PSP.

“DEC will reopen areas as soon as possible based on the results of laboratory analyses that will be conducted over the next few weeks,” the agency said in a statement.

PSP can cause illness in people who eat shellfish. Carnivorous gastropods such as whelks, conchs and moon snails that feed on shellfish can accumulate biotoxins at levels that are hazardous to human health.

The ban includes approximately 102 acres in Flanders Bay in the Town of Riverhead, plus Meetinghouse and Terry creeks. It also includes 1,429 acres in Shinnecock Bay in the Town of Southampton east of the Post Lane Bridge in Quogue and west of Pine Neck Point in East Quogue.

In May 2019, DEC closed the areas in Terry and Meetinghouse creeks to shellfish and carnivorous gastropods harvest and an additional 490 acres in Northport Harbor. DEC previously implemented a marine biotoxin closure in the same area of Western Shinnecock Bay in May 2018.