Red tide has hit Cape Ann and the North Shore, and all shore fishing is prohibited.
The state’s Marine Fisheries Division on Thursday banned the harvesting of all soft and razor clams in Cape Ann and the North Shore. This followed Wednesday’s announcement that the harvesting of blue mussels, carnivorous snails and whole scallops was banned due to high levels of paralytic shellfish toxin, also known as red tide.
It’s still safe to swim, said Gloucester Shell Keeper Peter Seminara, because this red tide is different from the type currently plaguing Florida and killing fish and irritating swimmers there.
“It’s strictly a noxious bloom of another kind,” he said of local red tide, a potent neurotoxin produced by natural seaweed. “The filter-feeding shells ingest it and it concentrates in the flesh.”
Consumption of contaminated shellfish is potentially fatal to humans, and cooking does not eliminate the danger.
The red tide – and the ban on shellfish fishing – extends from the New Hampshire border to the waters, tributaries and flats off Amesbury, Beverly, Boston, Danvers, Essex, Gloucester, Ipswich, Lynn, Manchester -by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Nahant, Newbury, Newburyport, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott and Winthrop. The domains concerned are N:1 to N:28.
Seminara said he didn’t know how long the red tide would persist.
“We’re looking at at least a few weeks,” he said, depending on how the toxin levels rise or fall. Testing earlier this week showed higher levels in Essex Bay than in the Annisquam River.
Essex and Ipswich fried clams are a specialty for local restaurants, and many, including Essex’s Woodman’s, have a back-up plan in case supplies run out.
The state is expected to retest for the toxin on Monday, Seminara said, with results expected to be announced later in the week.
“There is no testing until next week on this,” read a message left Thursday evening by Knovak on the Essex Clam Shutdown Hotline. “So until further notice all… clam flats in Essex are closed.”
Essex flats had already been closed all week due to heavy rain.
Managing Editor Andrea Holbrook can be reached at 1-978-675-2713 or [email protected]