The DNREC Shellfish Program is responsible for protecting public health by minimizing the risk of food borne illness due to the consumption of shellfish.
For the purposes of this program, “shellfish” are defined as any species of molluscan bivalve, including clams, mussels and oysters. Although crabs, scallops, conchs and other common seafood species are often referred to as shellfish, they do not require the same regulations because they are not intended to be eaten raw.
The Shellfish Program has three separate elements: Growing Waters, Plant Inspections and Enforcement. The Division of Watershed Stewardship’s Shellfish Program is responsible for the growing water and plant inspection elements, while the Division of Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police have responsibility for enforcing the patrol portion of the program.
DNREC maintains an interactive, online map showing where the harvest of shellfish is approved, seasonally approved (open from Dec. 1 through April 15), or prohibited.
Note that the appropriate Delaware fishing license is required to harvest shellfish in waters of the State of Delaware. Recreational harvest of oysters is prohibited in all state waters.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife makes acreage in the Inland Bays available for leases for shellfish aquaculture.
Shellfish Program staff conduct routine inspections of all shellfish shippers and processors to ensure compliance with national food safety regulations and those specific to the shellfish industry.
A permit from the Shellfish Program is required to receive shellfish from harvesters, wholesale shellfish to retailers, or conduct certain processing activities.
DNREC Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police regulate catch limits and harvesting methods for both commercial and recreational harvesters.
Delaware is a member of the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) and therefore is required to follow all guidelines set forth by the organization.
The ISSC is made up of state, federal and industry representatives, working in cooperation with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure compliance of state programs with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program’s (NSSP) Model Ordinance.