WAC 246-282 Sanitary Control of Shellfish Rule Revision

Emergency Rule Adoption

Effective immediately: Emergency rule adoption requires the most protective “time to cooling” and “harvest control” requirements for the commercial harvesting of shellfish.

May 17, 2023

Using delegated authority from the State Board of Health (Board), the Department of Health (Department) adopted an emergency rule to reduce the threat to public health from an increase in Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) related illnesses. This rule change is applicable to the commercial harvesting of shellfish under WAC 246-282-006, Washington’s Vp control plan.

The adopted emergency rule makes the most protective “time to cooling” and “harvest control” requirements effective immediately—for each growing area category identified WAC 246-282-006(11)(a), (b), and (c).

Higher than normal temperatures, combined with midday low tides, are expected in the coming days. These conditions require more protective “time to cooling” requirements—those typically not needed—or required—until July 1.  Reducing the time between harvest and cooling (“time to cooling”) helps reduce the chances of VP related illnesses.

The rule becomes effective upon adoption, May 17, 2023, and will remain in effect until September 14, 2023. The Washington State Register (WSR) number is 23-11-074.

CR-103E Emergency Rule Making Order (PDF) with adopted rule language.

Board Rulemaking – Permanent Amendments to Chapter 246-282 WAC, Sanitary Control of Shellfish

Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a naturally occurring bacteria found in marine waters. Molluscan bivalve shellfish acquire Vp through filter feeding. Humans who consume raw or undercooked shellfish containing Vp can develop an intestinal disease called Vibriosis.

On February 23, 2022, the Board initiated rulemaking to update chapter 246-282 WAC, Sanitary Control of Shellfish. This rulemaking will consider permanent updates to the rules including to WAC 246-282-006, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) Control Plan.

In 2021, there were a high number of vibriosis cases involving Washington shellfish largely due to exceedingly high temperatures during the summer months. 

The department expects this trend to continue. This indicates a need to review the rule requirements to determine if the current controls are adequate to protect consumers and consider more if more proactive measures to prevent illness and protect public health are appropriate.

Revisions could include a combination of requirements based on environmental factors to determine the safety of shellfish prior to harvest and consumption. The rule revision may also include updating definitions, seed size and other technical and editorial changes as needed.

As standard Board rulemaking, the work will likely take two or more years to complete and is on-going. Updates are given to the Board periodically, with the next one anticipated in August 2023. State Board of Health Meeting Information.

Preproposal Statement of Inquiry, CR-101 (PDF) 

Rulemaking Timeline (PDF)

Meeting Schedule and Topics (PDF)

To stay informed about this rulemaking and other Vp related information, sign up for Vibrio email notices.


Dani Toepelt, Shellfish Licensing and Certification Section Manager, 360-890-6054

Stuart Glasoe, State Board of Health, 360-236-4111