The Inland Bays are a productive resource, both commercially and recreationally, for the hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria). To protect the health of the public, approved harvesting areas have been designated which reduce the risk of human illness due to the consumption of shellfish. The corresponding map of the Inland Bays represents approved waters in blue, seasonally approved waters in yellow and prohibited waters in red.
Shellfish may be harvested from approved waters year-round because long-term water sampling and the absence of significant sources of bacterial pollution,results in consistently acceptable water quality. The NSSP requires that all growing areas be monitored at least six times per year, which Delaware exceeds by conducting year-round testing.
Seasonally-approved waters are areas which are open to shellfish harvesting during months when pollution from marinas and other seasonal inputs are minimal. Seasonally-approved waters are open to harvesting from December 1 through April 15. Prohibited waters are closed to shellfish harvesting year-round.
Shellfish harvesting from the deep waters of the Delaware Bay is primarily a commercial activity, although recreational harvesting is permitted in shallow approved waters. The most productive resource of the Delaware Bay is the Atlantic Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), which is usually harvested by dredging. The approved waters of the Delaware Bay are the primary location for all commercial oyster landings in the state.