Shellfish Water Classification Program

The Shellfish Water Classification Program provides recommendations for the classification of shellfish harvest areas based on sanitary water quality monitoring.

Program overview

The purpose of the sanitary monitoring is to find and evaluate all sources of sanitary pollution that could affect shellfish harvest waters.

Water quality surveys have two main components:

The results of water quality surveys are the basis for recommending and verifying the classification of an area in terms of suitability for shellfish harvest.

The classification categories are:

The Shellfish Water Classification Program supports the delivery of the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), which protects the public from eating contaminated shellfish by controlling the harvest of bivalve molluscan shellfish within Canada.

For more information on shellfish harvest area surveys and classification, please refer to the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program Manual.

Shellfish and water quality

Bivalve molluscs, such as clams, mussels and oysters, feed by filtering seawater for food particles, such as microscopic algae. However, the water they ingest can also include harmful bacteria and viruses.

The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program uses the concentration of fecal coliforms as a simple indicator of bacteriological water quality and shellfish food safety.

Fecal coliforms are organisms used to indicate the presence of fecal matter such as sewage. If water contains elevated concentrations of fecal coliforms, shellfish are likely to be contaminated and therefore unsafe to eat.

The Shellfish Water Classification Program does not test shellfish or shellfish harvest waters for chemicals or biotoxins. Such contaminants may be evaluated by other CSSP partners, in consultation with Health Canada (HC).

Examples of sanitary pollution sources include:

Additional resources

Contact us

Shellfish Water Classification Program
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Science and Technology Branch
335 River Road,
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 1C7

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: