DOAG: Shellfishing Area Classifications

Shellfishing Area Classifications

 
Shellfishing Area Classifications
 
 A shellfish growing area is any area that supports or could support the growth and/or propagation of molluscan shellstock (live clams, oysters, mussels and scallops in their shell). All shellfish growing areas are classified in accordance with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) National Shellfish Sanitation Program Model Ordinance (NSSP-MO). These classifications, established to minimize health risks, may restrict the taking and use of shellfish from some areas. No fresh water areas are classified for the harvesting of shellfish.
 
Shellfishing areas are reevaluated annually for improvements or degradation of water quality and status of pollution sources. An area that does not meet all of the NSSP-MO criteria for its current classification, due to new or existing pollution sources or degradation of water quality, will have its classification downgraded. Elimination of biological and chemical hazards including pollution sources, and a sufficient quantity of satisfactory seawater data collected under adverse hydrographic and meteorological conditions may result in upgrading of the current classification. Town efforts that result in evidence supporting a reclassification are carefully considered. The work conducted by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture (DA/BA) to classify waters in each town results in a Comprehensive Evaluation Report, including a shoreline survey and water quality data every twelve (12) years, an Annual Assessment Report of shoreline changes and data analyses and a Triennial Evaluation Report every three (3) years. These reports describe pollution sources and their potential impact, statistical analyses of seawater samples, corrective actions, and classification recommendations that provide evidence of conformance to the NSSP-MO. These reports are submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for review and evaluation of DA/BA compliance with the NSSP-MO.
 
At the discretion of the DA/BA, any shellfish area, regardless of its classification may be temporarily closed to all activities when a potential public health emergency exists as a result of a storm event or flooding, a sewage, chemical, or petroleum discharge or a hazardous algal bloom.
 
Note: Only certain shellfish cultivation activities may be allowed under a special license issued by the Department of Agriculture while Approved or Conditional Approved areas are in the “closed” status.    No shellfish may be brought to shore during closures. All activities must be supervised and monitored by DA/BA or its designee. Relaying shellfish into an area in the “closed” status under current relay licenses and predator control may be allowed while these areas are in the “closed” status.
 
The shellfishing area classifications and criteria are specified by the NSSP Model Ordinance and the Connecticut General Statutes. They are summarized as follows:
 
APPROVED AREA: A shellfishing area classification that conforms to NSSP-MO criteria for the growing and harvesting of shellfish for recreational and commercial use and direct consumption. Commercial operations, such as harvesting and direct marketing of shellfish must be licensed by the DA/BA.
 
Activities allowed in Approved areas during “emergency” closures are limited to relaying operations as specified on the license for such activity and predator control (mopping for starfish). Prior to conducting any activity in an Approved area during an “emergency” closure, the licensee must notify the local shellfish control authority and State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Law Enforcement ((860)-424-3503 24-hour Dispatcher) of their intended activity.
 
Note: Only certain shellfish cultivation activities will be allowed under a special license issued by the Department of Agriculture while Approved or Conditional Approved areas are in the “closed” status.    No shellfish may be brought to shore during closures. All activities must be supervised and monitored by DA/BA or its designee.  Relaying shellfish into an area in the “closed” status under current relay licenses and predator control may be allowed while these areas are in the “closed” status.
 
This classification is determined by a sanitary survey conducted by DA/BA with local assistance. The sanitary survey demonstrates conformance to NSSP-MO bacteriological criteria and the absence of dangerous levels of poisonous and deleterious substances. A sanitary survey consists of a shoreline survey to identify and assess all actual and potential pollution sources, hydrographic and meteorological affects, water quality examination and statistical analysis assessment of standards.
 
The fecal coliform geometric mean of the water samples must not exceed 14 colony forming unit (CFU) fecal coliforms per 100 ml, using the MTEC technique method, and not more than 10.0% of all sample results may be greater than 31 fecal coliforms per 100 ml. A minimum of five (5) seawater samples must be collected annually during adverse pollution conditions. A minimum of 15 seawater samples, collected over a three-year period during adverse pollution conditions, must be used for a geometric mean. Adverse pollution conditions have been defined by the NSSP-MO as a state or situation caused by meteorological, hydrologic or seasonal events and point or non-point source discharges that have historically resulted in elevated fecal coliform levels in a particular growing area.
 
CONDITIONALLY APPROVED AREA: A shellfishing area classification that predictably does not conform to "Approved" area criteria due to the occurrence of specified hydrologic or meteorological events or conditions, but will predictably return to the "Approved" area criteria. Activities allowed in Conditionally Approved areas during a "closed" status are limited to relaying operations and seed oyster harvesting as specified on the license for such activity and predator control (mopping for starfish). Prior to conducting any activity in a Conditionally Approved area during the “closed” status, the licensee must notify the local shellfish control authority and State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Law Enforcement ((860)-424-3503 24-hour Dispatcher) of their intended activity. Activities allowed in the Conditionally Approved area during "open" status are the same as those for an Approved area.
 
Note: Only certain shellfish cultivation activities will be allowed under a special license issued by the Department of Agriculture when Approved or Conditional Approved areas are in the “closed” status.    No shellfish may be brought to shore during closures. All activities must be supervised and monitored by DA/BA or its designee. Relaying shellfish into an area in the “closed” status under current relay licenses and predator control may be allowed while these areas are in the “closed” status.
 
The Conditionally Approved area shellfishing status is designated "open" for shellfishing when it conforms to the written management plan, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). A MOU is required for a Conditionally Approved area, which describes the management criteria for the area as well as the standards for an Approved classification when the status is designated "open". The area status is designated "closed" for shellfishing when it does not conform to the Approved classification or performance standards specified by the MOU. The duration of closure is based upon a sanitary survey and established performance standards specified in the MOU. The area is opened and closed by the shellfish control authority as specified in the MOU.
The bacteriological standard for the Conditionally Approved Area when “open” is the same as the Approved Area classification. A minimum of one (1) seawater sample per station must be collected each month when the area is designated "open". Sampling after a closure may be required prior to reopening.
 
RESTRICTED-RELAY/DEPURATION: A shellfishing area classification that conforms to NSSP-MO criteria that allows the area to be used by DA/BA licensed operations for the relaying of shellfish to a depuration plant for controlled purification, to designated beds in Approved or Conditionally Approved areas for natural cleansing or to areas satisfactory to the DA/BA, excluding Prohibited, Conditionally Restricted-Relay, and Restricted-Relay areas. These shellfish may not be directly harvested for market nor consumed prior to the purification process involving relay or depuration.
 
This classification determination is not routinely made due to the strict water quality criteria, limited resources in these small areas, and lack of depuration plants accepting “Restricted for Depuration” shellfish. Determinations are made when requested by the industry.
 
CONDITIONALLY RESTRICTED-RELAY/DEPURATION: A shellfishing area classification that predictably does not conform to Restricted-Relay/Depuration area criteria due to the occurrence of specified hydrologic or meteorological events or conditions, but will predictably return to the Restricted-Relay/Depuration area criteria. A written area management plan (MOU) must be developed for a conditional area. The MOU shall be based upon an evaluation of potential pollution sources that may impact the area and their correlation with predictable environmental conditions or other factors affecting the distribution of pollutants.
 
The Conditionally Restricted-Relay/Depuration area is designated "open" when it conforms to the standards for a Restricted-Relay/Depuration classification. The shellfish can be relayed to a depuration plant for controlled purification or to designated beds in an Approved or Conditionally Approved area for natural cleansing or to areas satisfactory to the DA/BA, excluding Prohibited, Conditionally Restricted-Relay, and Restricted-Relay areas. The area status is designated "closed" when it does not conform to the Restricted-Relay/Depuration classification as specified in the management plan. The duration of closure is conditional based upon a sanitary survey and established performance standards specified in the management plan.
 
This classification requires a sanitary survey and conformance with specified bacteriological standards. The bacteriological standard for this water classification when designated "open" is the same as the Restricted-Relay/Depuration area. A minimum of one (1) seawater sample from each station must be collected each month when the area is designated "open."
 
This classification determination is not routinely made due to the strict water quality criteria, limited resources in these small areas, and lack of depuration plants accepting “Restricted for Depuration” shellfish. Determinations are made when requested by the industry.
 
RESTRICTED-RELAY: A shellfishing area classification where DA/BA allows aquaculture, relay or transplant activities in conformance to NSSP-MO criteria. Operations may be licensed to relay shellfish to designated beds in Approved or Conditionally Approved areas for natural cleansing.
 
These shellfish may not be directly harvested for market or consumed prior to a minimum purification period of 14 consecutive days after being relayed to Approved or Conditionally Approved  “open” areas with a water temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) or greater. DA/BA may require the shellfish purification time to be longer than 14 consecutive days, based upon shellfish purification verification studies.
 
This classification requires a sanitary survey and collection of water quality data. A minimum of five (5) seawater samples from each station must be collected annually during adverse pollution conditions.
 
CONDITIONALLY RESTRICTED-RELAY: A shellfishing area classification that predictably does not conform to Restricted-Relay area criteria due to the occurrence of specified events or conditions, but predictably returns to the Restricted-Relay area criteria. A written management plan, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), must be developed for a conditional area. The MOU shall be based upon an evaluation of actual or potential pollution sources that may impact the area and their correlation with predictable environmental conditions or other factors affecting the distribution of pollutants.
 
The Conditionally Restricted-Relay area is designated "open" for relay of shellfish when it conforms to the MOU and the standards for a Restricted-Relay classification. The area status is designated "closed" for shellfish relay when it does not conform to the Restricted-Relay classification as specified in the MOU.
 
The duration of closure is based upon the performance standards specified in the MOU. A minimum of one (1) seawater sample per station must be collected each month when the area is designated "open".
PROHIBITED: A shellfishing area classification that does not conform with other NSSP-MO classification criteria. This classification prohibits the harvesting of shellfish for any purpose except depletion or aquaculture operations (such as seed oystering) licensed by the DA/BA.
 
A Prohibited shellfish growing area is closed for the harvesting of shellfish (except licensed aquaculture operations) at all times. This classification may be assigned to specify areas with direct exposure to fecal, industrial or environmental contamination to the extent that the consumption of shellfish harvested in the area may be potentially hazardous to health.  Only the removal of oyster seed shellstock of sub-market size (2.75 inches or less) that does not exceed 10 percent of the market weight and are six months or more growing time from market size is sanctioned.   Aquaculture operations may be suspended for such areas.
 
Areas with incomplete sanitary surveys, including lack of water quality data analysis, lack of a complete shoreline survey, or when the area does not conform to the requirements for the classification of a Restricted-Relay area or better also require this classification.
 
Environmental contamination may also include specified areas in which shellfish contain 80 micrograms or greater of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin per 100 grams of shellfish meat, contain other unacceptable levels of marine biotoxins, or contain unacceptable levels of poisonous or deleterious substances or organisms.  These areas are classified as Prohibited when such events are constant or reoccurring. Aquaculture operations may be suspended for such areas.