Virginia Department of Health closes portion of James River to shellfish harvesting

Virginia Department of HealthThe Virginia Department of Health announced today that a portion of the James River is closed to shellfish harvesting due to significant river flooding.

Because floodwaters can be contaminated with pollutants such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses, shellfish taken from the area affected by the emergency closure are currently unacceptable for consumption.

The temporary emergency closure is set to be effective February 26, 2019, through March 8, 2019. However, the Shellfish Safety Division will be conducting water quality monitoring and will reopen earlier if it is safe to do so.

“Monitoring shellfish harvesting beds is an important means to protect the health of Virginians,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MBA. “We watch shellfish beds for contaminants after major storms to ensure any seafood harvested there does not contain harmful substances that will make consumers of these shellfish ill.”

Ingesting shellfish taken from the closed areas at this time could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

A map of the affected area is posted on the Division of Shellfish Safety’s home page at www.vdh.virginia.gov/Shellfish/.  The affected shellfish are filter-feeding bivalve mollusks including oysters and clams, but not crabs or fin fish.

For more information on shellfish closures, see the frequently asked questions on shellfish condemnations at www.vdh.virginia.gov/EnvironmentalHealth/Shellfish/faq/.

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