BOSTON – October 7, 2016 – The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has banned the
harvesting of shellfish in Buzzards Bay, Mount Hope Bay and Lackeys Bay due to a
substantial bloom of a potentially toxic kind of phytoplankton termed
Pseudo-Nitzschia. Buzzards Bay and Lackeys Bay are closed to shellfish harvesting
effective at sunrise on Saturday, October 8, 2016, and Mount Hope Bay is closed to
shellfish harvesting effective immediately. As a result of the closure, digging,
harvesting, collecting and/or attempting to dig, harvest or collect shellfish, and
the possession of shellfish, is prohibited in Bourne, Dartmouth, Fairhaven,
Falmouth, Gosnold, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Swansea and Westport.
Phytoplankton samples collected by DMF on October 6, 2016 indicated extremely high
concentrations of Pseudo-Nitzschia throughout Buzzards Bay. Though the necessary
testing has not yet been conducted in Mount Hope Bay, a precautionary closure has
been issued because a Pseudo-Nitzschia bloom is present and testing results by the
state of Rhode Island in nearby Narragansett Bay indicate that the phytoplankton
Pseudo-nitzschia spp is producing toxins.
Pseudo-Nitzschia can produce domoic acid, a biotoxin that concentrates in filter
feeding shellfish. Shellfish containing high concentrations of domoic acid can cause
Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) with symptoms that include vomiting, cramps,
diarrhea and incapacitating headaches followed by confusion, disorientation,
permanent loss of short-term memory, and in severe cases, seizures and coma.
Throughout the weekend, DMF staff will continue testing the waters of Vineyard
Sound, Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay for the presence of Pseudo-nitzschia spp.
Additional testing of phytoplankton and shellfish for domoic acid concentrations
will be carried out within areas of the coast where significant Pseudo-Nitzschia
blooms are detected.
Based on the results of further testing, DMF will reopen areas once the
phytoplankton bloom has dissipated and shellfish are known to be free of toxic
levels of domoic acid. The closure will not affect the harvest of whelks, bay
scallops or sea scallops for purposes of extracting and selling or consuming the