July 1, 2005

Red Tide Recedes in Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP) -- Shellfish beds that closed because of an outbreak of toxic red tide algae were reopened in seven coastal communities Friday, just in time for the holiday weekend.

State officials said recent tests show the algae bloom has receded and it is safe to fish and harvest certain species of shellfish in Duxbury, Plymouth, Kingston, Bourne, Wareham, Wellfleet and Chatham.

The openings come more than a month after the worst red tide in 30 years began its spread through New England waters. The bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Cape Cod so that people would not eat contaminated shellfish like clams and mussels.

Friday's openings were sure to be good news to shellfishermen and shellfish growers, who've been out of work for weeks because of the outbreak. The state estimated a weekly loss of $3 million.

The areas opened Friday represent a small percentage of the total area closed because of the red tide, but officials said the areas are very productive. For example, the beds around Monomoy Island in Chatham account for close to 50 percent of the value of soft-shelled clams harvested in Massachusetts each year.

The harvest of surf clams, ocean quahogs and carnivorous snails remains prohibited in the newly opened areas, according to a statement from the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

The state fisheries division said it expects more areas to open next week.