Residents are being warned by the county health department to avoid harvesting and eating shellfish and carnivorous gastropods in Terry Creek and Meetinghouse Creek in the Town of Riverhead until further notice.

This warning follows the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announcement of a temporary ban on the harvest of carnivorous gastropods — which includes whelks, conchs, and moon snails — in these creeks due to the presence of marine biotoxins in shellfish and the potential presence of biotoxins in carnivorous gastropods, which feed on shellfish.

The State DEC determined that mussels collected from Meetinghouse Creek tested positive for saxitoxin, a marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

“Though Terry Creek and Meetinghouse Creek were already uncertified year-round for the harvest of shellfish, including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops, due to bacteriological concerns, this new ban prohibits harvesting of three gastropods: whelks, conchs, and moon snails, which had until present been allowed for harvest,” Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken.

“Our concern is for the health of the public,” Tomarken said.

Symptoms of PSP will depend on the amount of toxin ingested and can progress from tingling of the lips and tongue to numbness of the face, neck and limbs, loss of muscular control, followed by difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating shellfish, call 911 or seek emergency medical care immediately.

Maps of all affected areas and information about temporary closures are available on DEC’s website . Information about marine biotoxins and paralytic shellfish poisoning is also available on DEC website.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.