For Immediate Release - May 23, 2014

New Shellfish Handling and Vibrio Management Regulations

The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has promulgated emergency regulations to enact certain shellfish handling and Vibrio (Vp) Management Regulations. A public hearing will be held on these regulations at the Hanover Public Library on June 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM, written public hearing will be accepted until the close of the public hearing; see the public hearing notice pdf format of Notice of Public Hearings for more details. 

Shellfish Handling

The shellfish handling regulations are designed to complement the National Shellfish Sanitation Program’s Model Ordinance and will require that all molluscan shellfish harvested for commercial purposes in Massachusetts be harvested only from an area that is open to commercial shellfish harvesting and all shellfish are tagged. It is unlawful to transport shellfish that does not bear such tags and all dealers accepting shellfish must ensure that the shellfish they are accepting is properly tagged.

Shellfish tags must be durable, waterproof and at least 13.8 square inches or 2 5/8 inch by 5 ¼ inch. Prior to transport from the harvest site to the landing site, the harvester must record on the tag in indelible ink the following information, in the order specified: (1) full name of the harvester; (2) harvester’s DMF commercial shellfish permit number; (3) date and time of harvest; (4) type and quantity of shellstock harvested; (5) initials of the state of harvest; (6) the Shellfish Growing Area name and number; (7) if applicable, the aquaculture license site number; and (8) this statement: “THIS TAG IS REQUIRED TO BE ATTACHED UNTIL THE CONTAINER IS EMPTY OR IS RETAGGED, AND THEREAFTER KEPT ON FILE FOR 90 DAYS.” THIS TAG IS REQUIRED TO BE ATTACHED UNTIL CONTAINER IS EMPTY OR IS RETAGGED, AND THEREAFTER KEPT ON FILE FOR 90 DAYS.”

Vibrio Management

Due to warming seasonal water and air temperatures there has been an increase in food-borne illness due to the consumption of raw oysters harvested in Massachusetts that contain high concentrations of the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp). As a result, MarineFisheries, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the US Food and Drug Administration have cooperatively developed a Vp Control Plan. The Vp Control Plan establishes certain time-to-temperature standards aimed to reduce concentrations of Vp bacterium and safeguard public health.   

Beginning this year, MarineFisheries has promulgated Vp management regulations affecting commercial oyster harvesters to complement the Vp Control Plan. These regulations are in effect during the period of May 19 – October 19.  During this period, all commercial shellfishermen - both wild harvesters and aquaculturists – who harvest oysters are subject to these regulations.

MarineFisheries encourages all commercial shellfishermen who harvest oysters to review its Vibrio Management FAQ pdf format of Vibrio Management FAQ and the 2014 Vp Control Plan pdf format of 2014 Vibrio (Vp) Control Plan to determine how they are affected by the 2014 Vp Control Plan and its implementing regulations. For further information regarding how the Vp Control Plan affects shellfish dealers, please review the Department of Public Health’s Vp FAQ (link) or contact the Department of Public Health’s Food Protection Program. 

For full text of these new regulations or for more information about shellfish management in Massachusetts please visit our website: www.mass.gov/marinefisheries. You can contact our Shellfish Sanitation and Management Program (508-990-2860).