Shellfisheries water quality
We provide integrated policy advice, covering issues related to food quality and pollution impacts in coastal waters. This advice has secured improved public health protection and satisfies Defra's core objectives:
- protection of the environment
- policy integration
- support for rural economies
- promotion of a safe, sustainable food chain
- safeguarding environmental quality.
The main focus of our advice is on the microbiological affects of human and animal pollution on commercially harvested bivalve molluscs (e.g. mussels, oysters, clams).
We work with the Environment Agency (EA) to ensure that improvement schemes for sewage pipeline discharges are developed and effectively targeted so that pollution in shellfisheries is reduced. This means that humans are less likely to fall ill; it also enhances the value of shellfish industries' products.
The work done in this area is enhanced by other work funded by the Food Standards Agency (for example, the classification of shellfish harvesting areas).
Our Shellfish Hygiene (Statutory) Water Quality team has also supported Defra and the EA on past EU infraction proceedings under the Shellfish Waters Directive, providing advice on pollution assessment of shellfisheries.
We maintain an integrated shellfish-hygiene database and mapping tool. This includes a discharge database containing records of current and historic pipeline discharges. It offers unique information and a strategic tool to underpin impact assessments and policy decisions in the marine environment.
Over recent decades, sewage discharge improvement schemes have contributed to less microbiological contamination in designated shellfish waters. However, a number of these schemes have failed to comply with the microbial standard specified in the Shellfish Waters Directive. This results in both the industry and public health being compromised.
Our team works with Defra and the EA, helping them to deliver their commitments for the designation of waters under the Shellfish Waters Directive. We are currently developing classification and monitoring regimes for shellfish waters as protected areas under EC Water Framework Directive after the Shellfish Waters Directive is repealed in December 2013. The shellfish waters designation policy for England and Wales has ensured that, where new and sustainable bivalve shellfish harvesting areas are identified, new waters can be designated (which confers protection).
- The schedule of designated English shellfish waters can be found on the former Defra website (now available through the National Archive website).
- Maps of the designated English shellfish waters can be viewed or downloaded from this site.
- GIS layers of designated shellfish waters can be accessed using the MAGIC web browser.
We support Defra in its duties in respect of Several and Regulating Orders. Fishery orders and associated maps in England can be viewed or downloaded from this site.
We undertake and contribute to research on the microbiological quality of shellfish and shellfish water quality. This research includes virus inactivation and sewerage-treatment processes, land run-off and the effect of organic wastes on shellfisheries, pollution-tracing techniques, and relationships between faecal indicator bacteria in shellfish flesh and overlying waters.