October 31, 2012

(RICHMOND, Va.)— The Virginia Department of Health announced today that portions of the lower Rappahannock River, Mobjack Bay and the lower York River will be opened to harvesting shellfish effective midnight, October 31, 2012.

The Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay and west of and including the Virginia Inside Passage of the Eastern Shore will remain closed to shellfish harvesting due to floodwaters caused by tidal flooding and excessive rainfall. This change modifies the emergency closure that was put into effect October 29, 2012.

Maps of the affected areas are posted on the Division of Shellfish Sanitation’s home page The affected shellfish are bivalve mollusks including oysters and clams, but not crabs or fin fish.

Monitoring shellfish harvesting beds is an important means to protect the health of Virginians. The Division of Shellfish Sanitation watches shellfish beds for contaminants after major storms to ensure any shellfish harvested there do not contain harmful substances that will make consumers of these shellfish ill.

Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Sandy in Virginia caused extensive flooding impacting the lower portions of Chesapeake Bay tributaries and Eastern Shore. Due to potential microbiological and chemical pollution hazards, shellfish taken from areas affected by the emergency closure are currently unacceptable for consumption.

Ingesting shellfish taken from the closed areas at this time could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

For more information on shellfish closures, see the frequently asked questions on shellfish condemnations