Welcome to the Shellfish Harvester Training. Review the following information before taking the Shellfish Harvester Quiz.
About this Training
At least one individual from each shellfish operation is required to complete educational training (per the National Shellfish Sanitation Program's Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish). This training needs to be completed at least every five years and prior to receiving your Harvester License.
By reviewing this information, taking the quiz, and printing the screen that says you passed the quiz, you will satisfy this education requirement. For questions and additional information, contact your shellfish inspector or see our contact list for shellfish program staff.
There are four main types of shellfish that are harvested from Washington's waters: clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops (whole animals only).
Shellfish harvest and processing are regulated by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP). The NSSP is recognized by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) for the sanitary control of shellfish produced and sold for human consumption.
Shellfish are filter-feeders that take in nutrients from the water where they grow. Water can include hazards like bacteria, viruses, and chemicals. If there are enough of these hazards in the water, they can build up in the shellfish and may make people sick. Even if cooked to proper temperatures, shellfish can contain heat resistant viruses and chemicals that can make people sick.
Illnesses frequently associated with shellfish include Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), norovirus, Hepatitis A, and Vibriosis. It's important to know the hazards and take appropriate steps to control them.
Controlling the Hazards
To control the hazards (bacteria, viruses, and chemicals) three things must be considered: Location, Temperature, and Time.
The first step in ensuring that shellfish are safe is making sure they come from waters that are open and approved for growing and harvesting. Many considerations go into determining if an area can be used to grow or harvest shellfish including:
- Weather or other environmental conditions.
- Location of human habitation or industry developments.
- Presence of streams, wild animals, or resident and migrating bird populations.
- Harvest periods and methods.
- Species grown or harvested.
- Recreational use of the area.
- Proposed boundaries and topography.
In addition, the growing or harvest area waters must meet the fecal coliform standards set out in NSSP. This means the water must be regularly tested for the presence of fecal coliform, which DOH does regularly.
Growing Area Closures - Licensed harvesters should be signed up for the Commercial Shellfish Growing Area Management Email List, which allows you to receive emails when a growing area has been closed. The Department of Health requires your phone number (that has voicemail) so we can contact you when a growing area has been closed. You can also call us during business hours at 360-236-3330 or visit our Commercial Shellfish Map and select "Current Closures" for growing area closures.
Harvesting shellfish from closed or prohibited areas is illegal. For more information on how waters are classified visit our Shellfish Growing Areas Program.
Temperature control must be applied to all shellstock as soon as practically possible after the harvested shellstock is no longer submerged to prevent bacteria from growing. This can be done by immediately placing shellstock in ice (from an approved source) or in a mechanically refrigerated unit.
Shellstock must be harvested following the time to temperature requirements of NSSP's Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish, Chapter VIII @.02. For the purposes of time to temperature controls, time begins once the first shellstock harvested is no longer submerged. Harvesters must document and provide trip records to the initial dealer demonstrating compliance with the time to temperature requirements.
For oysters harvested during the Vibrio Control Plan months of May through September, there are additional time requirements to prevent Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria from growing. The amount of time allowed depends on the month the oysters were harvested in.
- May 1 – September 30: Vibrio Control Plan time period when oysters only must be harvested within the time to temperature controls listed in WAC 246-282-006 (11).
- October 1 – April 30: All shellstock must follow the time to temperature requirements of NSSP's Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish. See "Chapter VIII @.02.Shellstock Time to Temperature Controls."
Learn more about the Vibrio control plan rule requirements.
After the shellstock has been removed from the water, steps should be taken to keep it from environmental contamination. Dirt and filth from birds, unclean water, chemicals, and other environmental contaminants can transfer to shellstock and make consumers sick.
Protect shellfish from contamination during handling by making sure work surfaces are covered to protect from birds and bird droppings and sorting tables are kept clean. Also, rinse any mud or sand on shellfish with approved growing area water or water from an approved source and store shellstock covered in clean plastic totes.
When harvesting, don't mix shellfish lots. This is called commingling and it is prohibited. A lot is considered one day of harvested shellfish of a specific species. For example, razor clams harvested on January 1 would be labeled Lot A while razor clams harvested on January 2 would be Lot B.
During transportation, shellstock must be clean and protected from contamination. When transporting shellstock to the original dealer, the temperature inside the conveyance or vehicle should not exceed the ambient air temperature when the ambient air temperature is above 50°F (10°C).
To keep your shellstock safe during transport on your vessel, the following must be considered:
- Keep shellstock away from areas where it could come into contact with bilge water, fuel, or sewage.
- The vessel must be constructed in such a way to prevent contamination of water with shellstock.
- Tarps used to cover shellstock during transportation are made of cleanable material and cleaned regularly.
- Cats, dogs, or other animals shall not be allowed on vessels.
- An approved marine sanitation device must be on board the vessel to contain sewage. Watch the ISSC video on the dangers of discharging human waste from boats.
To keep your shellstock safe during transport in your vehicle, the following must be considered:
- Trucks used to transport shellstock are properly constructed, operated, and maintained to prevent contamination, deterioration, and decomposition.
- Ice used to cool shellstock is from approved potable sources.
- All containers used for shellfish are cleaned and sanitized after each use.
- Trucks have channeled floors or clean wooden/plastic pallets to place shellstock on.
- Cats, dogs, or other animals are not allowed in any part of the truck or other vehicles.
Correct shellstock identification is very important in protecting consumer health. In the event of a shellfish related illness, tags and records are used to trace the shellstock from the consumer back to where the product was harvested. Harvester tags need to include:
- Who – Shellfish operation certification number.
- When – Harvest date.
- Where – Location of harvest.
- What – Type of shellfish and quantity.
Shipping Your Shellstock
Harvested shellstock must be properly tagged. All harvesters shall comply with the applicable time to temperature requirements of:
- Washington State's Vibrio Control Plan, WAC 246-282-006.
- NSSP's Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish. See "Chapter VIII @.02.Shellstock Time to Temperature Controls."
All harvesters shall provide trip records to the initial dealer demonstrating compliance with these time to temperature requirements.
Take the Quiz
Using the information on this page, take the Shellfish Harvester Quiz.
Once you pass the online quiz, print out the screen that says, "Congratulations! You have passed the quiz and completed your harvester training." Keep this print-out in your records and for our inspectors to review during site visits.