To meet federal Food and Drug Administration mandates pertaining to the consumption of raw oysters and Vibrio parahaemolyticus (“vibrio”) health related risks, the Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) is issuing regulations applicable to Massachusetts commercial shellfish permit holders and seafood dealers, which are effective May 19, 2014 through October 19, 2014.  The regulations are designed to better control the time-temperature related conditions of the oyster harvest in Massachusetts.  The affected permit holders include shellfish growers , wild shellfish harvesters, and the seafood dealers that purchase product from these growers and harvesters.

In recent years, there has been an increased attention paid to the human health risk associated with consumption of raw shellfish, particularly oysters, due to the presence of the vibrio bacteria.  Vibrio thrive in warmer temperatures with the bacteria multiplying faster as temperature increases.  The more vibrio present in shellfish the greater the risk of infection; the consumption of raw shellfish with high counts of vibrio can cause gastrointestinal illness and in severe cases it can be lethal.

Many states south of Massachusetts are aggressively managing this risk through detailed and restrictive management plans.  Until 2012, Massachusetts had not, as our shellfish harvest and growing areas had not been subject to temperatures high enough to create significant risk.  However, due to warming air and water temperatures, this is no longer true and in 2011 two incidences of vibrio infection were traced back to the consumption of raw seafood harvested in Eastern Cape Cod Bay.  The tidal movements in Eastern Cape Cod Bay leave large shellfish harvest and growing areas exposed to the air and direct sunlight during low tide and during the warm summer months this exposure substantially increases the risk of infection.

To address this risk, MarineFisheries and the Department of Public Health (DPH) have designed a series of time-cooling requirements to minimize the risk of vibrio infection.  These restrictions will be in effect via regulations condition for the 2014 summer season.  

2014 Vibrio Control Plan

Other Documents

2013 Vibrio Control Plan

For more information, you may contact Marinefisheries at 617-626-1520 or the Department of Public Health at 617-983-6700.