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Shellfish Program

Commercial Shellfish Regulation

The Preharvest Shellfish Program (Program) regulates the commercial shellfish industry in conformance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).  The NSSP is the federal/state cooperative program recognized by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption. The purpose of the NSSP is to promote and improve the sanitation of shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) moving in interstate commerce through federal/state cooperation and uniformity of State shellfish programs. Participants in the NSSP include agencies from shellfish producing and non-producing States, FDA, EPA, NOAA, and the shellfish industry. The NSSP Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish consists of a Model Ordinance, supporting guidance documents, recommended forms, and other related materials associated with the Program. The Model Ordinance includes guidelines to ensure that the shellfish produced in States in compliance with the guidelines are safe and sanitary.

The Program conducts sanitary surveys to identify actual and potential pollution sources, classifies commercial growing areas, manages the ongoing monitoring of water quality in all areas, responds to emergencies such as sewage spills or illness outbreaks, and implements harvest closures whenever a threat to water quality exists.  The Program also works in collaboration with various law enforcement agencies to ensure the proper patrol of closed areas to prevent illegal harvesting.

Commercial shellfish aquaculture is conducted in five major areas throughout the state: Humboldt Bay, Tomales Bay, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara Channel, and Agua Hedionda Lagoon. There are 15 companies operating mostly on state leases administered by the California Department of Fish and Game.  Additional leases are held privately or within city tidelands grants. 

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