Shellfish Hygiene – Water Quality Assessments

The Brief

Assorted shellfish including

Assorted shellfish including, the blue mussel Mytilus edulis

Carcinus Ltd is contracted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to help fulfil its obligations under Regulation (EC) 854/2004 in relation to the classification of new shellfish harvesting areas within England and Wales. Regulation (EC) 854/2004 specifies the health conditions for the production and placing on the market of live bivalve molluscs, tunicates, echinoderms and marine gastropods, such as mussels, oysters, scallops and razor clams. Under this regulation, the FSA as a central competent authority, must establish sampling locations, sampling plans and the boundaries of classified shellfish harvesting areas. Shellfish harvesting areas are classified on the basis of concentrations of the faecal coliform indicating bacteria, Escherichia coli within shellfish flesh. Sources of microbiological contamination from a variety of sources, including human and/or animal origin can affect shellfish and the suitability of shellfish for human consumption. The degree of contamination is determined by samples of mollusc flesh collected from a Representative Monitoring Point (RMP – for managed aquaculture and wild fisheries). 

Carcinus was commissioned to undertake water quality assessments to determine locations of provisional RMPs and classification boundaries for all new shellfish harvesting area applications within England and Wales for 2017 to 2019, to enable sampling to be initiated at new harvest areas.

Marine sunset on the south coast of England.

Marine sunset over one of the assessed harvesting areas on the south coast of England.

Our Involvement

Carcinus are delighted to be supporting the FSA by undertaking provisional boundary assessments and designating the provisional representative monitoring points.

Our assessments comprise a detailed review of the geographic, hydrodynamic and environmental characteristics of each proposed harvesting area and the identification and assessment of potential sources of faecal and chemical contamination. All sources or potential contamination are considered, including continuous point sources (e.g., waste water outfalls), intermittent sources (e.g., Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)) and rural / urban diffuse sources (including dog fouling, misconnections and agricultural practices), together with natural sources such as wading and roosting birds and marine mammals. Once a thorough understanding of potential sources has been established, the connectivity and dispersion between source and receptor (the shellfish bed(s) or growing area) is considered. A detailed monitoring plan and sampling strategy is then drafted to best represent the worst case scenario (conservative approach) in regard to shellfish hygiene and the risk to human health resulting from consumption. The assessment process requires close liaison with the FSA, the Local Enforcement Authority (LEA) and the applicant.


To date, Carcinus has completed numerous assessments for applications to harvest shellfish within previously unclassified areas and areas classified in the past but needing an updated assessment. This has enabled the FSA to meet its obligations under Regulation EC 854/2004 and enabled prospective harvesters to progress their fishery. Carcinus look forward to providing continued support to the FSA in the coming year.

Client testimonial
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has contracted Carcinus to provide Provisional Representative Monitoring Point (PRMP) assessments for shellfish harvesting areas, involving advising on boundaries, sampling points and a proposed sampling plan for new areas or amendments to existing classified areas, to allow commencement of official control E.coli monitoring towards classification. This also involves liaising with local authorities to ensure sampling arrangements are workable.
– Emily Davis – Shellfish Team –
Food Standards Agency

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