NSW Shellfish Program

Industry overview

NSW has 76 commercial shellfish growing areas between Eden in the south and Tweed Heads in the north with around 300 oyster farming businesses producing 9.2 million dozen oysters for a $42 million industry and representing 44 per cent of Australia’s oysters. One mussel farming business also operates on the NSW south coast.

The NSW shellfish industry is regulated by NSW Food Authority under the Food Regulation 2010.

All oysters and mussels in NSW are harvested in accordance with the NSW Shellfish Program, which has adopted the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (ASQAP) as a minimum standard. All the requirements of the NSW Shellfish Program are contained in the NSW Shellfish Industry Manual (see below).

Open/closed status of harvest areas

Shellfish harvest areas may temporarily close for a number of reasons, including localised rainfall that can lead to runoff and can pollute the estuary containing the shellfish.

Since shellfish are filter feeders they can accumulate this pollution.

The NSW Food Authority works with the shellfish industry to close harvest areas when necessary and re-open them when microbiological testing indicates that the estuaries have become clean again and the shellfish have been given adequate time to purge themselves of all contaminants.

Prior to harvesting shellfish for human consumption, farmers should confirm the status of the relevant harvest area with their local coordinator.
Due to the unpredictable nature of events leading to harvesting closures, and the fact they may not always occur during business hours, the list may not always reflect the most recent closures and is not intended to be legally binding. Subject to the above qualifications, the NSW Food Authority attempts to ensure current status of harvest areas is updated on a regular basis.

Role of local coordinators

The NSW Food Authority works closely with key shellfish industry personnel, established as local coordinators in each estuary, who act as the vital communication link between the Authority and the industry.

Shellfish harvest areas are managed through the classification management plans, which dictate trigger levels of rainfall, salinity and water quality that must be met for harvest of shellfish to occur. This approach aligns with international best practice for the safe harvest of shellfish.

Forms & supporting documents

Licence application

All businesses that harvest, collect or depurate shellfish are required to hold a NSW Food Authority licence to operate:

Industry manuals

Food safety requirements for shellfish businesses are set out in:

Marine biotoxin requirements for shellfish businesses are set out in:

Stock movement requirements and records for shellfish businesses are set out in:

Food Safety Program templates


Harvest area classification

From 2000 to 2005 the Authority conducted risk assessments of commercial shellfish harvest areas in NSW, which has involved conducting shoreline surveys of harvest areas and the collection of a large amount of microbiological data on water and shellfish from designated test sites. The initial data is included in the NSW Aquaculture Shellfish Harvest Area Water Bacteriology and Phytoplankton Survey Data January 2003 - June 2005 which the Authority released in 2006.

This information is being used to classify each shellfish harvest area, which are currently classified as either:

  • Conditionally approved – shellfish can be directly harvested
  • Conditionally restricted – shellfish must be depurated for a minimum of 36 hours before being sold for human consumption
  • Prohibited - shellfish cannot be harvested for human consumption

Shellfish cannot be harvested from growing areas that are not being classified, instead shellfish must be translocated to classified areas for 60 days before they can be harvested for human consumption.

Detailed information on the classification process is provided in the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program Operations Manual

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