Canada Water Act annual report for 2020 to 2021: chapter 5

5 Shellfish Water Classification Program

The Shellfish Water Classification Program (SWCP) 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 with the United States, and is a cornerstone in allowing exports to other foreign countries. As a result, Canada is subject to periodic audits by other countries, including the United States.

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 5 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.

The SWCP field operations, including water quality monitoring, pollution source surveys and wastewater system assessments were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021. The accomplishment of workplan objectives varied considerably from province to province, largely due to differences in regional outbreaks of COVID-19 and public health measures. Completion of monitoring objectives ranged from 10% in Nova Scotia to 100% in Prince Edward Island. Overall, approximately 60% of monitoring objectives were achieved, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 4: Monitored shellfish growing areas

Long description

Figure 4 is a map showing the monitored shellfish growing areas that occurred in Canada during 2020-2021. (See Table 2 below)

In 2020-2021, 394 shellfish growing areas were monitored in Canada (see Figure 4 and Table 2). 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, 16 136 marine water samples were collected at 5245 stations in the Atlantic region, Quebec and BC (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 167 2676 8538
Quebec 92 728 2119
British Columbia 135 1841 5479
Total 394 5245 16 136

In addition to marine water quality determinations, sanitary shoreline investigations of point and non-point pollution sources were performed within 49 shellfish growing areas (Atlantic - 0, BC - 49, Quebec - 0). As part of the waste water treatment plant assessments, 3 wastewater systems (Atlantic - 2, BC - 0, Quebec - 1) were evaluated or re-evaluated. In addition, 2135 (Atlantic 860, BC 1136, Quebec 139) environmental emergency events were reviewed and significant incidents were assessed to determine the need for emergency harvest area closures.

For more information, consult the CSSP.

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