The area of the Sound unconditionally approved for harvesting shellfish was greater in 2019.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Aquaculture and Laboratory Services monitors shellfish beds and classifies them according to their potential for yielding healthful, uncontaminated shellfish. The chart shows the acreage of shellfish beds that are included in the "approved" category for direct harvesting.* There is also a "conditionally approved" category, not shown on the chart, which requires a management plan and might be subject to closings seasonally or after rainfalls. (Even areas that are "approved" may be closed as a precaution following exceptional rainfalls of three or more inches.) Classification changes are related to improvement or decline in water quality based upon the results of water quality monitoring and/or updated sanitary survey findings. Significant upgrades in 2019 from “Restricted” and “Conditionally Approved” to “Approved” occurred in Milford (145 acres), Madison (5,584 acres), East Lyme (11,476 acres), and Waterford (6,043 acres).
Water quality assessment criteria for shellfishing as a designated use only applies to inner, shore, and mid-shore estuarine waters where shellfish growth is viable, which is approximately 50 percent of Connecticut’s estuarine waters. Only about 16 percent of the estuarine waters assessed can fully support shellfish harvesting from Class SA waters.**
Goal: The goal for marine shellfish beds, adopted in the 2015 edition of the Long Island Sound Study's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, is to upgrade five percent of the 2014 restricted acres (262,831) so that shellfish may be harvested in those areas freely. Adding those upgraded acres to the 2014 baseline results in a target of approximately 139,550 "approved" acres by 2035, shown on the chart as a horizontal line.
Long Island Sound Blue Plan: The Long Island Sound Blue Plan was completed in 2019. The Plan provides an inventory of the natural resources and uses of Connecticut's Long Island Sound and establishes a spatial plan to guide future use of the Sound's waters and submerged lands.
Technical Notes: * The changes in "approved" acres over the past decade have reflected changes in federal regulations and more accurate spatial measurement techniques in addition to water quality changes. ** SA waters allow shellfish harvesting for direct human consumption where authorized, whereas SB waters allow shellfish harvesting with depuration or relay where authorized. Depuration is the action or process of freeing something of impurities. In the case of shellfish, this usually means moving the shellfish to areas with better water quality.