Shellfish Commission Guidance

As the lead state authority on shellfish sanitation and management, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture (DA/BA) is responsible for classifying and overseeing the water quality standards of all shellfish growing areas, including recreational shellfish growing areas. Towns with conditionally approved shellfish growing areas must have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DA/BA, which outlines the responsibilities of all parties, including closing and reopening shellfish growing areas and routine sampling responsibilities. DA/BA offers guidance, will establish the shellfish growing area sampling stations and growing area classifications, and GIS mapping services to all towns with open recreational or commercial shellfishing areas.

Establishing new growing areas is a lengthy process, as the DA/BA must complete a full sanitary shoreline survey and associated report, and the Shellfish Commission must collect a minimum of 15 sample sets over 3 years under adverse pollution conditions (APC) (0-4 days following >0.5" rain) that meet the minimum water quality criteria outlined in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program Model Ordinance (NSSP-mo).

Similarly, upgrading shellfish growing areas can be a lengthy process, and may require additional sampling by the shellfish commissions to demonstrate that the growing area(s) meet the stricter minimum requirements outlined in the NSSP-mo.

Shellfish commissions should contact Alissa Dragan, the Growing Area Lead, with any questions at Alissa.Dragan@ct.gov or (203)-874-0696 ext. 119.

 

Sample Collection Procedures and Forms

Shellfish growing areas are classified based on national standards established in the NSSP-mo and managed with rainfall triggers that are established based upon water quality data indicating when growing areas should be in the open and closed status. In addition to collecting routine water samples at established sampling stations, the DA/BA may require shellstock tissue sampling for reopening and/or background verification studies. All conditionally approved growing areas are subject to a minimum 7 day closure following a rainfall event that exceeds the rainfall trigger. Commissions should plan to collect reopening samples prior to the 7th day; satisfactory water quality (and shellstock, if applicable) results will allow DA/BA to reopen the area on the 8th day. Without the necessary sample collection, areas will remain closed for a minimum of 14 days following a rainfall event that exceeds the trigger, or 21 days following a sewage treatment plant bypass or upset. Sewage-related closures will require bacterial and viral testing, as required by DA/BA.

Towns with approved shellfish growing areas must collect a minimum of 5 adverse pollution condition (APC) (0-4 days following >0.5" rain) sample sets annually that meet the minimum water quality criteria outlined in the NSSP-mo.

Towns with conditionally approved shellfish growing areas must collected an annual minimum of 12 open sample sets, and a minimum of 5 APC (0-4 days following >0.5" rain) sample sets, throughout the year that meet the minimum water quality criteria outlined in the NSSP-mo. Sample sets collected while the areas are closed will not contribute to the annual 12 open sample set requirement but will contribute to the APC requirement if collected 0-4 days following >0.5" rain.

Towns with conditionally approved seasonal shellfish growing areas must collect a minimum of 1 open sample set per month that the area is scheduled to be open, and a minimum of 5 APC (0-4 days following >0.5" rain) sample sets, annually that meet the minimum water quality criteria outlined in the NSSP-mo. Sample sets collected while the areas are closed will not contribute to the annual open sample set requirement but will contribute to the APC requirement if collected 0-4 days following >0.5" rain.

2022 General Shellfish Commission Sample Guidance

Seawater Sample Collection Procedure & Seawater Sample Collection Form

Shellstock Tissue Sample Collection Procedure & Shellstock Tissue Sample Collection Form

Phytoplankton Grab Sample Collection Procedure & HAB Bloom Reporting Form

 

Connecticut Sea Grant

Connecticut Sea Grant can also be of assistance to recreational shellfish commissions. Each January, Connecticut Sea Grant organizes a gathering of Shellfish Commissioners, and brings together member of municipal shellfish and harbor commission members and state managers to discuss issues related to shellfisheries and natural resource management. For more information, please contact Connecticut Sea Grant. 

Read the Connecticut SeaGrant Report, which found that the recreational shellfishing sector has a more than $1.6 million annual economic impact on the state's economy.