The total area of local waters condemned to shellfish harvesting increased by 129 acres between July 1, 2016 and July 1st this year. Figures released last week, by the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shoreline Sanitation, show 5,296.9 acres of waterways in Gloucester, Mathews, and those shared with neighboring counties, from which shellfish may not be harvested. Some prohibitions are permanent, some conditional, and some dependent on the results of periodic water quality sampling.
The state bases its guidelines on monthly sampling of waters for contaminants, because bivalve mollusks such as oysters, clams and mussels, feed by pumping large amounts of water through their gills and filtering out microscopic-sized food particles. Because shellfish sometimes are eaten raw, care must be taken to ensure that they are harvested from very clean water.