‘Red Tide’ Closes Atlantic Coast Shellfish Fishing, Hampton/Seabrook Harbor

May 31 – Much of New Hampshire’s coastal waters are closed to the taking of mussels, clams and oysters, with a “red tide” contaminating shellfish with a potentially deadly toxin.

The State Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Fish and Game reported on Friday that high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning in blue mussels collected from Hampton/Seabrook Harbor on Wednesday. Paralytic shellfish poisoning is a condition resulting from an algal bloom sometimes called “red tide”.

The state takes shellfish samples weekly and has found high levels of toxins in harbor mussels, according to a news release.

The toxin can be fatal to humans, according to the state Department of Environmental Services, and cooking does not make it safe to eat contaminated shellfish.

Until tests show toxicity levels are dropping, the state Department of Environmental Services and the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game have shut down New Hampshire’s Atlantic coastal waters and the waters of Hampton/Seabrook harbor to the taking of all species of “shellfish” – mussels, clams and oysters.

“Red tide toxicity levels are currently increasing in coastal New Hampshire waters and in Hampton/Seabrook Harbor and tributaries,” said Chris Nash, Shellfish Program Manager for NHDES. “It’s too early to tell how bad this algal bloom will be or how long it could last.” He noted that weekly sampling will continue through October.

Blue mussels collected at Hampton/Seabrook earlier this week showed low toxin levels, but samples collected on Wednesday May 25 showed rising toxin levels. Blue mussels from Star Island, Isles of Shoals, collected earlier this week also indicated the presence of the toxin.

Other New Hampshire shellfish harvesting areas, including oyster beds around Nannie Island and Adams Point in Great Bay, and commercial oyster farms in Little Bay, are still open, with tests not showing no toxicity.

Lobster is unaffected by the red tide shutdown, although state officials continue to advise consumers to avoid eating lobster tomalli, the green, sweet substance inside the body of the lobster.

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