The New York State DEC has closed 92 acres of Mattituck Inlet and Mattituck Creek, along with the rock jetties that protect the inlet, due to the discovery of a toxin that causes shellfish poisoning. The toxin is the same found in dangerous “red tide” outbreaks, and this is the earliest closure due to neurotoxins that the DEC has on record, according to a press release issued by the DEC Wednesday.
The DEC said “all shellfish harvesting in these lands is prohibited until further notice in an effort to protect public health.”
Saxitoxin is a neurotoxin produced by certain blue-green algae and other microscopic marine organisms known as dinoflagellates that is responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans.
It is the dangerous toxin found in recent “red tide” blooms of a phytoplankton in the genus Alexandrium in the Peconic Bays and the Great South Bay.
The inlet and creek were already only certified safe for shellfishing in the winter months, and were scheduled to close April 16.
The DEC said they closed the creek after shellfish samples taken from a monitoring site in the creek tested positive for saxitoxin.
“This is the first biotoxin closure of Mattituck Creek and Mattituck Inlet since DEC first detected biotoxins in shellfish and closed areas in the Northport/Huntington Day complex in 2006,” said the release. “This closure in April marks the earliest biotoxin closure by more than one month. Closures in previous years typically have been implemented in early to mid-May.”
The DEC monitors for biotoxins in shellfish at 19 locations throughout Long Island.
A recorded message updating shellfish harvesters on the status of temporarily closed shellfish areas is available at 444-0480.