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Classification of 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)
  • 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.

To prevent this the EU produced a Directive. 

This Directive has been implemented in Member States by individual Regulations. The Directive called for monthly sampling of all live bivalve production areas.

The water is categorised A, B, C or prohibited. 

Find out more about how beds are classifiedThe majority of beds locally which come under control of this Authority are Class B.

This means that the shellfish have to be purified in clean water for a period of time before being sold for human consumption. Shellfish from Class C beds must be re-laid at approved sites or heat treated before consumption.

Shellfish harvesting areas may be downgraded due to high levels of toxins or bacteria discovered during routine sampling.

This is often only a temporary measure until such time as the water quality recovers to its normal levels. Occasionally, shellfish beds may be upgraded if the water quality in that particular area has shown very low levels of bacteria over a specified period of time.

Sampling plan

Cornwall Port Health Authority undertake shellfish sampling for bacteria and toxins.

Sampling is done on a monthly basis during the winter months and fortnightly during the summer period.

In the event of an issue, additional sampling is undertaken.

Find out more about the annual sampling plan

Classification maps

Please note these are set within respective areas of the county and country.

For Cornwall, please view:

  • Fal
  • Helford
  • Porthallow
  • St Austell
  • Fowey
  • Lantivet
  • Camel
  • Mevagissey

Please check these on a regular basis for amendments and changes.

Find out more about classified shellfish beds

Biotoxin monitoring results

Marine biotoxins are produced by certain types of phytoplankton (marine algae).

  • These can accumulate in the tissues of filter feeding live bivalve molluscs (LBMs)
  • 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 website.

Visit the Food Standards Agency website

How to apply for a classification

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.

Notable information

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. It is also a busy working marina with live-aboards and boat wash activities.

This means the water quality is poor.

An environmental study in 2016 determined that the area within the following coordinates is likely to be contaminated.

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

Find out more about shellfish classification mapsShellfish Registration Documents (SRDs)

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 email at, these are issued 10 documents at a time.

Local Action Group (LAG)

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.

Local Action Plan (LAP)

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 report

Pollution reports are communicated to all interested parties via our Local Action Group (LAG) by email.

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

Illegal harvesting

Individuals may harvest small amounts of shellfish for personal consumption. However checks should be undertaken if the area is a private fishery.

Permission may be need before harvesting.

If you witness any harvesting, particularly of large amounts which may be illegally harvested, please contact Cornwall Port Health Authority.

Please provide as much information as possible and include any photos. This will allow us to investigate this matter.

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