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Chris Nash, DES: (603) 559-1509
Jane Vachon, NHF&G: (603) 271-3211 
June 19, 2007

Atlantic Coast Shellfishing Closed Because of "Red Tide"

CONCORD, N.H. -- To protect the public from the possible consumption of contaminated shellfish, officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department have closed the Atlantic coastal waters to the taking of shellfish until further notice.  This action is in response to elevated levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning or PSP, commonly known as "red tide," detected in blue mussels collected from the Isles of Shoals and from Hampton/Seabrook Harbor.

"This event is just beginning to affect New Hampshire waters.  The nature of red tide blooms vary from year to year, and it is too soon to know how severe this one will be, or how long it might last," said Chris Nash, Shellfish Program Manager for NHDES.  The 2005 red tide event was the most widespread and toxic event on record for New Hampshire waters, while last summer brought a less severe event, characterized by high toxicity in the offshore area and only low levels of toxin along the beaches.  "Toxicity levels are increasing right now.  Sampling over the next few weeks will tell us if the effects of the algae bloom are intensifying or not," Nash noted.

Harvesting areas along the immediate Atlantic shoreline have actually been closed since June 7, 2007, due to high bacteria levels following heavy rainfall.  Since that time, an offshore bloom of the marine algae that causes PSP toxicity in shellfish has begun to affect the area.  Blue mussels collected from Hampton/Seabrook last week showed toxin levels above the mandatory closure threshold of 80 micrograms toxin per 100 grams shellfish tissue.  Higher toxicity levels were measured in samples collected this week.  Blue mussels from Star Island, Isles of Shoals, are also exhibiting high toxicity values.

Other New Hampshire shellfish harvesting areas, including the oyster beds around Nannie Island and Adams Point in Great Bay, are not affected by this PSP closure of Atlantic waters.  Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services will continue to monitor shellfish toxicity levels throughout coastal New Hampshire and will implement additional closures as appropriate.  Changes to the open/closed status of shellfish waters will be announced on the Clam Flat Hotline (1-800-43-CLAMS) or click here for Fish and Game's Clam Flat Hotline web page.

Red tide is a condition in which filter-feeding shellfish such as clams, oysters, and mussels accumulate a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine algae.  Ingesting the toxin is potentially fatal to humans, and cooking does not make contaminated shellfish safe for consumption.  For more information, click here for the NHDES Shellfish Program website.

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