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Shellfish

Cornwall Port Health Authority is responsible for the classification of the shellfish beds under the EC Hygiene Directive, currently we have in excess of 40 beds of various species including mussels, oysters (both native and pacific) and razor clams.

The risk to humans of consuming shellfish (usually either raw or lightly cooked) has been well documented for decades. Large outbreaks of food poisoning and typhoid still occur worldwide where shellfish have been gathered from polluted estuaries. In order to prevent this the EU produced a Directive some 10 years ago which has subsequently been implemented in Member States by individual Regulations. The Directive called for monthly sampling of all live bivalve production areas so that the water could be categorised A, B, C or prohibited. To read more on how beds are classified in the UK please visit the CEFAS website

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The majority of beds locally which come under control of this Authority are Class B which means that the shellfish have to be purified in clean water  for a period of time before being marketed for human consumption. Shellfish from Class C beds must be re-laid at approved sites or heat treated prior to consumption.

Shellfish harvesting areas may be downgraded from A to B or from B to C etc. due to high levels of toxins or bacteria discovered during routine sampling. This is often only a temporary measure introduced until such time as the water quality recovers to its normal levels. Occasionally, shellfish beds may be upgraded from C to B or from B to A if the water quality in that particular area has shown very low levels of bacteria over a specified period of time.

Cornwall Port Health Authority undertake monthly shellfish sampling for bacteria and toxins on a monthly basis during the winter months and fortnightly during the summer period. In the event of an issue, additional sampling is undertaken. Our annual sampling plan can be viewed on the following through CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science)

 Current classified areas can be found on by visiting the CEFAS website. Please note these are set within respective areasof the county and country – for Cornwall please view: Fal, Helford, Porthallow, St Austell, Fowey, Lantivet, Camel and Mevagissey. Please check these on a regular basis for amendments and changes.

Marine biotoxins, which are produced by certain types of phytoplankton (marine algae), can accumulate in the tissues of filter feeding live bivalve molluscs (LBMs). As previously detailed, these are sampled monthly during the winter period and fortnightly during the summer. Results from this monitoring is updated weekly and can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

 If you would like an additional species or area classified after viewing the currently classified maps, please email Cornwall Port Health Authority with the following information:

  • which area you would like classified (include maps and coordinates)
  • what species
  • brief detail of the intended market

We can then discuss the application and take this further.

Mylor Harbour is the home port for many of the shell fishermen who work on the River Fal. The daily shellfish catch is landed here, however it is also a busy working marina with live-aboards and boat wash activities which mean that the water quality is poor. An environmental study in 2016 determined that the area within the following coordinates is likely to be contaminated and as such is unsuitable for the storage, re-immersion or holding of shellfish. This includes the intertidal zone. Shellfish stored held or re-immersed within this area do not comply with food hygiene requirements.: 

  • 50⁰  10.820’N  5⁰ 03.036’W
  • 50⁰  10.642’N  5⁰ 03.024’W
  • 50⁰  10.691’N  5⁰ 03.229’W
  • 50⁰  10.814’N  5⁰ 03.262’W

This area can be view on the shellfish classification maps.

Each gatherer of live bivalve molluscs (including Pectinidae and non-filter feeding gastropods and echinoderms) to be placed on the market, must provide a registration document identifying each batch that they harvest

The registration document must be completed upon landing and accompany the batch from the classified harvesting area (or in the case of Pectinidae, non-filter feeding gastropods and echinoderms from the area of sea it is harvested) and between establishments, up to and including arrival of the batch at a relaying area, purification centre, dispatch centre or processing establishment.

Registration documents help us to trace shellfish, therefore all the detail required needs to be completed as accurately as possible.

You can request shellfish movement documents via Port Health by email (email add), these are issued 10 documents at a time.

The local action group (LAG) contains any interested bodies in shellfish which has originated from Cornwall, such as harvesters, processing plants, government bodies, local water authority etc. The LAG are corresponded with (via email) concerning any issues, changes or consultations which may be happening concerning shellfish.

If you wish to be added to the LAG, please make contact with Cornwall Port Health Authority.

The local action plan (LAP) sets out the course of action which will happen if increased levels of bacteria or toxins are found in the classified bed routine sampling. Action may include: a request for further information, a temporary downgrade, permanent downgrade or a temporary closure notice.

Pollution reports are communicated to all interested parties via our Local Action Group (LAG) by email in a timely manner. If you witness a pollution incident which you feel may have impact on a local shellfish bed, please contact Cornwall Port Health Authority. Please provide as much information as possible, such as the exact location, type of pollution, when this was observed and if this is still ongoing.

Individuals may harvest small amounts of shellfish for personal consumption, however checks should be undertaken if the area is a private fishery where permission would need to be sought prior to harvesting.

If you witness any harvesting, particularly of large amounts which you feel may be illegally harvested, please contact Cornwall Port Health Authority with as much information as possible along with any photos, this will allow us to investigate this matter.