To meet federal public health mandates to minimize the risk associated with the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) related to the consumption of raw oysters, the Division of Marine Fisheries has issued permit conditions to implement the 2013 Vp Control Plan. These permit conditions have been sent to all Massachusetts aquaculture propagation permit holders, commercial shellfish permit holders in the Town of Wellfleet and the seafood dealers who purchase raw oysters from commercial harvesters (primary buyers) and are effective during the period of May 24 through October 20.
The Vp Control Plan is designed to better regulate the time-to-temperature related conditions of oyster harvest, sale and distribution. For 2013, the Division of Marine Fisheries reestablished a number of the permit conditions from 2012 and included some substantial amendments. Harvesters must tag all bags or containers of oysters with the time of harvest; maintain a harvest logbook; adequately shade their oysters during harvest and transportation; and adequately ice their oyster harvest upon landing. Additionally, certain harvester activities related to the culturing and culling of oysters are subject to Vp related restrictions. Primary buyers must implement a HACCP control plan that identifies Vp as a significant hazard; ensure that oysters are chilled to an internal temperature of ≤ 50°F within 10 hours to time of harvest; maintain a ambient air temperature of 45°F; and keep receiving records of pertinent harvester information. All oysters that do not conform to these time-temperature restrictions cannot be sold into the raw shellfish market. Additionally, primary buyers are subject to all relevant Department of Public Health Regulations (Public Health) at 105 CMR 533.0007.
In recent years there has been increased attention paid to the human health risk associated with the consumption of raw shellfish, particularly oysters due to the presence of Vp. Vp thrive in warmer waters as the bacteria multiply faster as temperature increases. The more Vp present the greater the risk of infection; severe gastro-intestinal illness can be found in cases where raw shellfish is consumed with high Vp counts. Many states south of Massachusetts have long been aggressively managing this risk through detailed management plans. However, Vp management in Massachusetts only began in 2012, as our shellfish harvest and growing areas have not been subject to high enough temperatures to create a significant risk. Due to warming air and water temperatures, this is no longer true. Accordingly, MarineFisheries and Public Health have re-established and extended the Vp Control Plan and implementing permit conditions for 2013.
For more information you may contact MarineFisheries at 617-626-1534 or the Department of Public Health at 617-983-6700. To view the 2013 Vp Control Plan please visit our website file size 1MB .