ELLSWORTH — The Department of Marine Resources has closed all state waters from Otter Point on Mount Desert Island eastward to the Canadian border to the harvest of soft shell clams and mussels because shellfish harvested Downeast last week tested positive of the neurotoxin that causes the potentially deadly amnesiac shellfish poisoning.
According to DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols, while the neurotoxin has been present in Maine waters for years, this is the first time it has ever been detected at a level high enough to warrant shutting down the fishery.
“That’s 20 parts per million,” Nichols said Wednesday morning. “It’s set by the FDA (federal Food and Drug Administration.)”
The closure follows a DMR recall of mussels and mahogany quahogs harvested or wet-stored in the Jonesport area, and of clams harvested between Cranberry Point in Corea and Cow Point in Roque Bluffs between Sept. 25 and Sept. 30. The state tested samples and told shellfish dealers to dispose of the affected shellfish.
At 9:30 Wednesday morning, Nichols said he was waiting for the head of DMR’s shellfish sanitation program to give him the most recent estimate of how many pounds of clams and mussels have been destroyed. Nichols also said that DMR had no way to know how long the closure would last.