BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The recreational shellfish harvest area in Glynn County near the site of a capsized cargo ship will be closed until further notice beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2019, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today.
DNR Commissioner Mark Williams made the precautionary move through an Administrative Order after oil believed to be from the ship was detected in marshes less than a mile from the site. The closure is precautionary and only affects the recreational picking area in Jointer Creek south of Downing Musgrove Causeway, which connects Jekyll Island and the mainland
Surveys and shellfish meat sampled from the site Sept. 26 showed no signs of contamination. The following day and again on Sept. 30, the capsized ship discharged a significant volume of pollutants. Shoreline assessments conducted on Oct. 1 of Cedar Creek, which leads to Jointer Creek, confirmed oiling in marsh vegetation approximately seven-tenths of a mile from the recreational shellfish harvest area.
The recreational harvest area will re-open as soon as the risk of pollution contamination has subsided. The Unified Command, which is overseeing the response to the capsized ship, will conduct water quality testing weekly.
Shellfish are filter feeders and eat by straining suspended matter from water using specialized filtering anatomy. This closure is due to the possibility these filter feeders could consume pollutants and pass them up the food chain to humans.
“This closure is being made out of an abundance of caution,” said Doug Haymans, director of DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, which oversees shellfish water quality in the state. “Our primary interest is protecting public health and practicing sound principles of wildlife management. We will continue to be in contact with the Unified Command and recommend the re-opening of the harvesting area as soon as the risk of contamination is gone.”
The capsized ship, motor vessel Golden Ray, overturned Sept. 8 in the St. Simons Sound south of the St. Simons Pier. It was carrying 24 crew, who were all rescued, 4,151 vehicles and about 300,000 gallons of fuel. The response operation is being handled by the Unified Command, which is made of three entities: the responsible party, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Anyone with questions regarding the Unified Command may contact the command’s Joint Information Center at 912-944-7122 or visit www.ssiresponse.com.
For questions regarding the shellfish harvest closure, contact DNR’s Tyler Jones at 912-230-9709.
For public health information, call 844-863-0325.
To report oiled wildlife, call 800-261-0980
To report pollution, call 800-424-8802.