For the first time in four years, the water quality is good enough in Kent Narrows for the state to open the area temporarily to oyster harvesting.
Beginning Monday, Jan. 31, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced that the area shown in the map (inset) is open to shellfish harvesting, thanks to minimal boating activity in winter and recent water quality testing.
Usually, MDE says, Kent Narrows is closed to oystering due to the high volume of boats, marinas, and onshore activities that can negatively affect water quality and make it unsafe to consume oysters harvested from the area.
MDE monitors bacterial water quality where oysters are harvested because shellfish are filter feeders with the ability to filter water. If the waters are polluted, this filtering process can concentrate disease-causing organisms associated with raw sewage and other sources, such as animal waste. Oysters and clams are often eaten raw or partially cooked and must come from waters that are not polluted.
Until now, the most recent times the Narrows has been open for harvesting were in the winters of 2017 and 2018.
Troy Wilkins, president of the Queen Anne’s County Watermen’s Association, says his organization plants oysters on both sides of the Kent Narrows Bridge each year. They had members of the state’s Department of Natural Resources out on the boat with them in December.
Wilkins says the watermen will harvest the small amount of planted oysters if they’re market-sized.
The opening will remain in effect until the end of the 2022 oyster season as determined by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. At that time the area will again be closed to harvesting.
Information on shellfish harvesting areas is available on the department’s website. These designations apply only to the harvesting of shellfish (oysters and clams); they do not apply to fishing or crabbing.
-Meg Walburn Viviano