Clams, oysters, and other bivalve shellfish are filter feeders, which means they feed on plankton and microorganisms they strain from the water. As temperatures rise, naturally occurring bacteria found in New York’s marine waters can potentially grow to unsafe levels in shellfish. A common bacteria that is found in our coastal waters is Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp), which generally thrives during warm water conditions and can rapidly increase in shellfish during warm air temperatures.
DEC’s Vibrio Control Plan promotes proper postharvest handling of shellfish, during the warm weather months between May 1 through October 31 to ensure shellfish are kept cool after harvesting to protect the public health of shellfish consumers.
To ensure the safety of shellfish for consumers, follow the guidance below:
- Keep shaded or out of direct sunlight while harvesting.
- Never keep shellfish in standing water – only keep them over ice and make sure to remove melted ice regularly or in a container that is self-draining.
- Once harvested, keep shellfish in a cooler or refrigerator as quickly as possible.
Before going shellfishing, use the DEC Public Shellfish Mapper to know where shellfish harvesting areas are open. This interactive map shows regulatory closures, temporary closures, conditional harvesting programs, shellfish harvest zones, aquaculture lease sites, and water sampling stations.