updated 7/1/2005 10:04:14 PM ET 2005-07-02T02:04:14

Shellfishermen headed back to the flats off several Massachusetts towns Friday after a toxic red tide receded and the state reopened shellfish beds for the first time in five weeks.

“It’ll be nice to make some money after 30 days or so not working,” said Jonathan Buck, 24, as he unloaded gear from the back of his family’s truck.

The openings in seven coastal communities followed the worst red tide to spread through New England waters in 30 years. The bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Cape Cod, including most beds in Massachusetts, before it began to recede in the last weeks of June.

The algae contaminates clams, mussels and oysters, making them unsafe and even fatal for people to eat.

The state estimated a weekly loss of $3 million for the shellfish industry.

State officials said recent tests show it’s safe to fish and harvest certain species of shellfish in Duxbury, Plymouth, Kingston, Bourne, Wareham, Wellfleet and Chatham. Some of the towns are on Cape Cod, the others are on the coastline south of Boston.

The areas opened Friday represent a small percentage of the total shellfish beds closed, but officials said the areas are very productive. The beds around Monomoy Island in Chatham account for almost 50 percent of the value of soft-shelled clams harvested in Massachusetts each year.

The state fisheries division said it expects more areas to open next week.

In Maine, wide areas of the coast remain closed to shellfish harvesting, but the state Department of Marine Resources reopened several areas on Thursday.

All of New Hampshire’s shellfish beds remained closed as of Friday, but the state’s clam and oyster seasons have already ended.

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