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CONTACT:
Chris Nash (NH DES): 603-559-1509
Bruce Smith (NH F&G): 603-868-1095
January 25, 2007

Additional Shellfishing Areas Opened in Hampton/Seabrook Harbor

HAMPTON, N.H. - Good news for clam diggers: two major improvements for shellfish harvesting opportunities have been made, based on work of the Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Fish and Game Department. Following the completion the DES Shellfish Program's multi-year study of pollution sources affecting the Hampton/Seabrook clam flats, more than 260 acres of shellfishing waters are being reopened in portions of the harbor and its tributaries. Also, effective January 1, 2007, temporary closures will be triggered by rainfall events greater than one inch; the threshold had formerly been 0.25 inches. This change -- which is still within public health guidelines -- will make pollution closures less frequent.

"Our studies document that at least some of the public health risks which closed portions of the harbor in the late 1980s have changed. No doubt the numerous pollution-control projects undertaken by municipal governments, local businesses, environmental organizations, and state agencies over the last several years have helped in this regard," said Chris Nash, Shellfish Program Manager for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. "Although this work illustrates significant improvements to environmental quality and tangible benefits for those who enjoy harvesting these public resources, there is still much work to do."

Because of unpredictably poor water quality and risk of sewage contamination, seasonal closures will continue to be implemented in the late spring, and lasting through the month of October. The exact date of closure in spring is driven by risk of boat sewage contamination, which is determined by the number of boats in the harbor that are capable of discharging sewage. Typically a closure is necessary by the end of May, although an early start to the boating season could close the area sooner. Temporary closures following unusual pollution events such as significant discharges of improperly treated sewage, episodes of "red tide," and others will occasionally affect harvesting opportunities as well.

Although harvesters will still not be able to dig Hampton/Seabrook clams or other molluscan shellfish in the early fall, harvesting opportunities in the November to May time period will be greater because of the revised rainfall closure threshold. Under the new one-inch closure, the number of rainfall related closures is expected to be cut in half. On average, there are approximately seven rainstorms of one inch or more during the November to May time period.

Maps of the open/closed areas are now available at the Department of Environmental Services Shellfish Program website (click here).

Temporary closures due to rainfall, red tide or other factors will be announced through news releases; on the toll-free "Clam Hotline" at 1-800-43-CLAMS; and on NH Fish and Game's website (click here).

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