State fishery officials, worried about a massive phytoplankton bloom that could potentially produce dangerous toxins harmful to humans, closed shellfishing for most species all along the Nantucket Sound side of the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The new closure, announced late Tuesday, expands an existing closure of areas in Buzzards Bay and Mount Hope Bay.
“We get these blooms every so often. Other people have seen high numbers,” said Michael Hickey, the state Division of Marine Fisheries’ chief shellfish biologist. Still, blooms of the phytoplankton Pseudo-nitzschia that result in the production of toxic domoic acid are relatively rare in the Northeast. Maine has been dealing with big closures for the past week, with the toxin found in shellfish for the first time ever.
Filter-feeding shellfish concentrate the domoic acid produced by some Pseudo-nitzschia species in their flesh. Species included in the ban are oysters, clams, mussels and other popular shellfish. Species that still can be harvested and sold include sea and bay scallop adductor muscles, and carnivorous snails like conch and whelk.