Canada Water Act annual report for 2019 to 2020: chapter 5

5 Shellfish Water Classification Program

The Shellfish Water Classification Program is run by ECCC as part of the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP). The CSSP is a federal program administered jointly pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, ECCC, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The CSSP objective is to provide reasonable assurance that molluscan shellfish are safe for consumption by controlling the harvesting of all molluscs (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams, scallops) within Canadian tidal waters. The mutual concerns of Canada and the United States to protect the public from the consumption of contaminated bivalve molluscs led to the signing of the Canada-United States Bilateral Agreement on Shellfish Sanitation on April 30, 1948, to deal with sanitary practices in the shellfish industries of both countries. This agreement remains in effect to maintain open trade; Canada is subject to periodic audits by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Data are collected by ECCC for the purpose of making applicable classification recommendations on the basis of sanitary and water quality survey results. There are five classification categories of marine bivalve shellfish harvest areas (Approved; Conditionally Approved; Restricted; Conditionally Restricted; and Prohibited) under the CSSP. ECCC recommendations are reviewed and adopted by Regional Interdepartmental Shellfish Committees prior to regulatory implementation by DFO.

Figure 7: Monitored shellfish growing areas
Figure 7: Monitored shellfish growing areas

Figure 7 is a map showing the monitored shellfish growing areas that occurred in Canada during 2019-2020: Atlantic region (227), Quebec (99) and British Columbia (135). (See Table 2 below.)

In 2019-2020, 461 shellfish growing areas were monitored in Canada (Atlantic 227, British Columbia 135, Quebec 99) (see Figure 7). Marine water sampling was undertaken through a combination of delivery methods in different portions of each province, including internal ECCC resources, outsourcing to private-sector contractors, federal-provincial water monitoring agreements under the CWA, and voluntary agreements with First Nations and stakeholders. Analyses for fecal coliform and salinity content determination were performed in ISO 17025 accredited laboratories. Across Canada, 26 351 marine water samples were collected at 6383 stations in the Atlantic region, Quebec and British Columbia (see Table 2).

Table 2: Number of shellfish growing areas, stations and marine water samples taken in the Atlantic region, Quebec and British Columbia.
Region Shellfish growing areas Stations Marine water samples
Atlantic 227 3366 16 757
Quebec 99 997 3308
British Columbia 135 2020 6466
Total 461 6383 26 531

In addition to marine water quality determinations, sanitary shoreline investigations of point and non-point pollution sources were performed within 188 shellfish growing areas (Atlantic 61, British Columbia 77, Quebec 50). As part of the waste water treatment plant assessments, 13 wastewater systems (Atlantic 7, British Columbia 3, Quebec 3) were evaluated or re-evaluated. In addition, 2907 (Atlantic 940, British Columbia 1865, Quebec 102) environmental emergency events were reviewed and significant incidents were assessed to determine the need for emergency harvest area closures.

For more information, consult the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program.

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