Growing Area Classification
Sanitary surveys are conducted in commercial and recreational growing areas to determine their suitability for shellfish harvest. The surveys include water quality monitoring and pollution source evaluations of the surrounding area. There are about 100 commercial growing areas and 250 recreational beaches currently classified.
Commercial growing areas can be classified as:
- Approved – Sanitary survey shows that the area is not subject to contamination that presents an actual or potential public health hazard. An Approved classification authorizes commercial shellfish harvest for direct marketing.
- Conditionally Approved – This meets Approved criteria, but only during predictable periods. For example, during dry weather a growing area may meet Approved water quality standards, but after a certain amount of rain falls (termed a "rainfall event") the water quality declines. In this example, the Conditionally Approved area is temporarily closed to harvest after a rainfall event. The length of closure is predetermined for each Conditionally Approved area, and is based on water sample data that show the amount of time it takes for water quality to recover and again meet Approved criteria. Once that time period has elapsed, the area is reopened.
- Restricted – Water quality doesn't meet standards for an Approved classification, but the sanitary survey indicates a limited degree of pollution from non-human sources. Shellfish harvested from Restricted growing areas cannot be marketed directly. They must be relayed (transplanted) to Approved growing areas for a specified amount of time, allowing shellfish to naturally cleanse themselves of contaminants before they are harvested for market.
- Prohibited – Sanitary survey indicates that fecal material, pathogenic microorganisms, or poisonous or harmful substances may be present in concentrations that pose a health risk to shellfish consumers. Growing areas adjacent to sewage treatment plant outfalls, marinas, and other persistent or unpredictable pollution sources are classified as Prohibited. Growing areas that have not undergone a sanitary survey are also classified as Prohibited. Commercial shellfish harvests are not allowed from Prohibited areas.
Recreational growing areas have three classifications: Approved, Advisory (similar to Restricted for commercial areas), and Closed.
The goal of the Restoration Program is to reopen commercial and recreational shellfish beds that have been closed or reclassified and to prevent the closure of shellfish areas that are still open but threatened. Program staff work closely with local government, other state agencies, Tribes, and other stakeholders to identify pollution sources and correct them.