Following last week’s closures of Meetinghouse and Terry creeks in Aquebogue and western Shinnecock Bay in Southampton, New York State has closed James Creek in Southold to shellfish and gastropod harvesting.

Shellfish and gastropods in these locations all tested positive for the marine biotoxin saxitoxin, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

People who consume shellfish with high levels of saxitoxin may be susceptible to paralytic shellfish poisoning, a potentially life-threatening illness. Saxitoxin is produced mainly by harmful algal blooms, more commonly known as “red tides” or “brown tides.”

The closure affects all of James Creek, which is a tributary of the Peconic Bay. James Creek runs along Bay Avenue and is home to Bay Avenue Park, a waterfront park with a Little League field and two tennis courts.

This announcement comes alongside reports of a “massive” die-off of diamondback terrapin turtles, which have been washing up on Flanders Bay beaches. The DEC has not yet responded to inquiries about the possible presence of saxitoxin in Flanders Bay. Shellfish and gastropods are the main source of food for diamondback terrapin turtles.

“[Saxitoxin] might not be occurring at a density [in Flanders Bay] to pose a public health risk,” Kevin McAllister, former head of Peconic Baykeeper and founder of Defend H20, said this week. “But lower densities taken up by the shellfish, which take the toxin in through filter-feeding, could potentially threaten the turtles.”


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Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie