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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

Fish and Shellfish Programs

Maryland’s seafood industry and recreational fishing in the Chesapeake Bay depend on consumers’ confidence that fish, oysters, and clams from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are of the highest quality.  MDE’s fish and shellfish programs put a strong emphasis on preventing pollutants from entering the waters of the State, monitoring the quality of shellfish harvesting waters, and testing edible fish tissue to certify that fish are safe for human consumption.

Past usage and inappropriate disposal of persistent organic substances have resulted in elevated levels of some hazardous substances in waterbodies near major urban centers. Certain fish in these waters, due to their feeding habits, metabolic activity, age and fat content, may accumulate these substances to levels which may be harmful to people consuming these fish frequently throughout their lifetime. The current advisories are the result of contamination due to past use of chlordane and PCBs, which are now banned.

The presence of humans in any watershed increases the potential for an adverse impact on shellfish water quality.  Impacts range from large and small sewage treatment facility’s discharges and bypasses from sewage pumping stations, to failing septic systems and increased runoff from development and farm animal operations. Where sewage outfalls already exist, closed safety zones surrounding these outfalls are mandated and necessary to protect human health.

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