Some areas are open and closed seasonally, while others are closed year-round, and few others are open year-round. The reasons for closures varies, but largely depends on the state-assigned classification. The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) classifies areas for shellfish harvest.
Growing area classifications are assigned based on the results of sanitary surveys. The classification determines whether or not shellfish in the area can be harvested for human consumption. In Massachusetts, there are five classifications:
- APPROVED: Open to shellfish harvesting for direct human consumption subject to local rules and regulations. Closed only during major coast-wide events (e.g., hurricane, oil spill, red tide event).
- CONDITIONALLY APPROVED: Closed some of the time due to rainfall or seasonally poor water quality or other predictable events. When open, it is treated as an Approved area.
- RESTRICTED: Contains a limited degree of contamination at all times. When open, shellfish can be relayed to a less contaminated area or harvested for depuration.
- CONDITIONALLY RESTRICTED: Contains a limited degree of contamination at all times. Subject to intermittent pollution events and may close due poor water quality from rainfall events or season. When open, only commercial harvesting of soft shell clams for depuration is allowed.
- PROHIBITED: Closed to the harvest of shellfish under all conditions, except the gathering of seeds for municipal propagation programs under a DMF permit.
Many areas in Falmouth are classified as CONDITIONALLY APPROVED, and these areas are typically closed during the warmer late spring to early fall months when these areas experience poor water quality, and open in the late fall to winter months.
Other reasons areas close seasonally include resource management closures, in which the Town closes an area that is otherwise open for natural resource enhancement.
Temporary emergency closures including rainfall closures are enacted by MA DMF. In these situations, the Town will update the open shellfishing areas to reflect this status.