Promoting Shellfish Safety

To ensure the safety of Delaware’s shellfish growing areas, it is important that residents and visitors help maintain good water quality and limit pollution while recreating in or near shellfish growing areas.

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Andrew Bell
Environmental Scientist

Keep Shellfish Growing Areas Healthy

The following is a list of simple steps that can be taken to do your part in maintaining the high water quality standards needed to maintain approved shellfish harvesting areas.

Never discharge human waste overboard while boating

It is important to use approved Marine sanitation devices or buckets with tight fitting lids to contain all human waste. Human waste is the number one cause of contaminated shellfish and can also result in closure of shellfish growing areas. Make sure to properly dispose of waste at marina pump-out facilities or other sanitary facilities.

Shellfish on the Marsh

Clean up pet waste

Pet waste contributes bacteria to our coastal waterways which can result in the closure of shellfish growing areas. Always pick up any pet waste and properly dispose of it when you return to the marina or home.

Do not feed birds

When people feed birds near or at the water’s edge, bird droppings accumulate and are washed into the water during the next rain event. These droppings increase bacteria levels and the potential for disease when they are concentrated and enter the water.

Keep Shellfish Healthy After Harvest

It is also important that shellfish be maintained properly to prevent the growth or introduction of bacteria after harvest. The following is a list of simple steps that can be taken to maintain the quality of shellfish after harvest.

Maintain shellfish at a temperature of 45 degrees or less to prevent bacterial growth

After shellfish have been harvested, it is important to keep them cool by means of a cooler or shading until they can be refrigerated. All shellfish should be refrigerated to a temperature of 45 degrees or less to inhibit bacterial growth.

Do not place shellfish in non-approved growing waters after harvest

By harvesting shellfish in approved waters there is little risk of illness because water is routinely tested for bacteria to ensure consumer safety. Never place shellfish in waters that are not approved for shellfish harvest because you are introducing the animals into water that may have the potential to harbor harmful bacteria.

For example:

  • Do not place shellfish in marina areas to get rid of sand
  • Do not place shellfish in coolers containing water that has fish or crabs in it
  • Do not place shellfish in a bucket of water that has not been collected from an approved harvest area

Remember, shellfish are filter feeders and the water they are placed in will end up inside of the animal. Because shellfish are usually consumed whole, you eat what they eat!