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Shellfish cultivation or harvesting

Shellfish means, for these food standards, bivalve molluscs ie cockles, clams, mussels, oysters, pipis and scallops intended for human consumption.

Regulated businesses activities include commercially producing, storing or processing shellfish including:

  • cultivating, harvesting or collecting shellfish
  • depuration and wet storing of shellfish
  • cultivating spat ie juvenile bivalve molluscs to be grown on.

For regulation of food safety standards for other species see seafood.

Licensing, registration

Businesses in the shellfish sector need to:

  1. apply for a Food Authority licence online or download an application form (PDF, 394.76 KB), print and post it 
  2. prepare for regular audits
  3. meet the requirements of the NSW Shellfish Industry Manual
  4. meet requirements for shellfish cultivation or harvesting.

For more see applying for a food licence.

Skills & knowledge

There are no formal food safety qualifications required for shellfish harvesters, however each person in control of a food business is required to have food safety skills and knowledge appropriate to their food handling activities.

For a guide see FSANZ Safe Food Australia Division 2.

Requirements are set out in the Food Standards Code, Standard 3.2.2 - Food Safety Practices and General Requirements, clause 3.

Construction & facilities

Vessels used to harvest or transport shellfish need to be properly constructed, operated and maintained to prevent contamination, deterioration and decomposition of the shellfish. This includes:

  • decks and storage bins being constructed and located to prevent bilge water or polluted water from coming into contact with the shellfish
  • bilge pump discharges being located so that the discharge does not contaminate shellfish
  • vessel decks and storage bins used in the harvest or transport of shellfish being:
    • kept clean with portable water, or
    • kept clean with water of a microbiological standard which is equal to or better than the harvest area, and
    • provided with effective drainage
       
  • bags or other containers used for storing shellfish being kept clean and fabricated from safe materials
  • when necessary, providing effective coverings on harvest vessels to protect shellfish from exposure to the sun, birds and other adverse conditions
  • not allowing cats, dogs and other animals on vessels or any part of a vehicle where shellfish are stored
  • not discharging human excreta overboard from a vessel used to harvest or transport shellfish
  • transporting shellfish in adequately refrigerated vehicles when the shellfish have been previously refrigerated, or at times when ambient temperature and time of travel are such that unacceptable bacteria growth or deterioration may occur
  • when mechanical refrigeration units are used the units need to be:
    • equipped with automatic controls
    • capable of maintaining the ambient air temperature in the storage area at:
      • temperatures of 10°C or less if transporting Pacific oysters, Flat oysters, mussels or other temperature sensitive species of shellfish; or
      • temperatures of 21°C or less if transporting Sydney rock oysters
         
  • any ice used to cool shellfish during transport must meet potable water standards.

Hygiene & handling

A food handler must take all reasonable measures not to handle food or surfaces likely to come into contact with food in a way that is likely to compromise the safety and suitability of food.

Shellfish harvesters must exercise personal hygiene and health practices so the food is suitable for sale by:

  • wearing clean clothing at the start of each day
  • not handling food if they know, or suspect, they have an illness, for example vomiting or diarrhoea
  • covering open wounds with waterproof bandage
  • washing their hands whenever it is likely their hands could contaminate food eg after visiting the toilet, after meal breaks
  • not smoking around product at any time.

For more see our factsheets:

See also FSANZ guide Safe Food Australia on Standard 3.2.2.

Requirements are set out in Food Standards Code, Chapter 3, Standard 3.2.2, Division 4 - Health and Hygiene.

Food safety controls

All commercial shellfish in NSW need to be harvested in accordance with the NSW Shellfish Program.

Requirements of the NSW Shellfish Program for licensed shellfish businesses are contained in the NSW Shellfish Industry Manual.

The NSW Shellfish Program has adopted the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (ASQAP) as a minimum standard.

The NSW Food Authority appoints local shellfish committees administer local programs.

Key requirements of the NSW Shellfish Industry Manual include:

Food Safety Program

Each seafood business that engages in the primary production or processing of shellfish needs to implement a documented food safety management program that effectively controls the hazards.

The Food Authority has developed Food Safety Program templates for farmed, wild harvest and wet storage or shellfish. These templates need to be adapted to fit your business, products and market requirements to ensure all potential food safety hazards are identified and controlled.

See:

For more see food safety programs.

Identification & traceability

A seafood business harvesting shellfish needs to have a system to enable the traceback of a harvested batch of shellfish to a date, time and location of harvest such that:

  • each batch of shellfish is tagged or labelled at the time of harvest with a durable, legible and waterproof harvest label which clearly identifies:
    • the date and time of harvest
    • the name of the harvest area from which the shellfish were harvested.

Record keeping

The licence holder needs to ensure that the following records of activities are kept for at least 2 years from the event to which they relate.

Shellfish harvest

A seafood business harvesting shellfish needs to complete the required records of the harvest operations as soon as practicable but within 24 hours for each occasion in which shellfish are harvested. Records to keep include:

  • the date and time of harvest
  • the name of the harvest area from which the shellfish was harvested
  • the business name and address of the grower/harvester/collector
  • the species of shellfish and quantity of each species harvested
  • for a seafood business harvesting oysters: the unique Product Record (PR) number for each batch, which the business needs to allocate in accordance with the Harvested Product Record Book available from the Food Authority
  • for a seafood business harvesting shellfish other than oysters: the unique batch number for each batch, which the business needs to allocate in accordance with a documented system.

The Harvested Product Record Book and food safety management system records must be available for audit by the Food Authority at all times.

See: Stock movement diary NSW Shellfish Program

Relay operations

A seafood business relaying shellfish must keep adequate records of these operations.

This includes the completion of a Stock Movement Diary (or a method of record-keeping deemed equivalent by the Food Authority) kept up to date with the following information:

  • the name of the harvest area from which the shellfish were relayed
  • the date and time at which the shellfish were relayed from the harvest area
  • the name of the harvest area to which the shellfish were relayed
  • the date and time at which the shellfish were relayed to the harvest area
  • the species of shellfish relayed and the quantity of each species relayed.

See: NSW Shellfish Program Relay Procedures

Wet storage

A seafood business using temporary wet storage must keep complete and accurate records to enable a batch of shellfish to be traced back to the wet storage location.

The records must include details of the source of the shellfish and include the PR number or batch number of the shellfish. Records to keep include:

  • the date and time at which wet storage commenced
  • the date and time at which wet storage ended
  • if the wet storage was carried out for the food business concerned by another food business, the licence number issued to the other business by the Food Authority
  • the name of the operator of the wet storage facility
  • the source of the water used for the wet storage.

See: Wet Storage of Shellfish

Depuration

A seafood business using depuration must keep complete, accurate and up-to-date records for the following:

  • the date and time at which depuration commenced
  • the date and time at which depuration ended
  • particulars that identify the depuration plant used for the depuration
  • the name of the operator of the depuration facility
  • the source of the water used for the depuration
  • a unique identifier of the batch of shellfish.

Each section of the Harvested Product Record Book must be completed at the time of each depuration activity by the operator.

Labelling

The Food Act 2003 s 18 prohibits misleading conduct in relation to the sale of food, and s 22 prohibits false descriptions of food for sale.

Businesses are required to clearly identify all shellfish sold as ‘spat’ and ‘not for human consumption’.

Also, see Food Safety Controls | Identification & traceability (above).

Testing

Licensed shellfish businesses need to comply with product testing requirements set out in the NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual.

The Manual specifies microbiological testing and limits which all seafood businesses collecting or harvesting shellfish need to test for:

E.Coli in:

  • depurated shellfish from each depuration unit
  • collected shellfish
  • pen oysters
  • packaged oysters
  • non-reticulated water used in connection with the production and processing of seafood.

Listeria monocytongenes in:

  • cooked/smoked seafood.

Marine biotoxins in:

  • collected shellfish.

See: Marine Biotoxin management plan (pdf, 854KB)

Faecal coliforms in:

  • wet storage source water before disinfection
  • disinfected water entering wet storage tanks
  • wet storage source water without disinfection
  • water sourced outside a classified harvest area
  • water disinfected prior to depuration.

Salinity in:

  • water disinfected prior to depuration.

Temperature in:

  • water disinfected prior to depuration.

Further information to note:

  • any analysis is at the licence holder’s expense and must be conducted by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) or Food Authority approved laboratory
  • the licence holder must notify the Authority if an analysed sample fails to meet the standards as detailed in the Manual or those set by the Authority
  • this notification to the Authority is to be made
    1. verbally within 24hrs of becoming aware of the sample failure and
    2. in writing within 7 days of becoming aware of the sample failure.

Inspections & audits

On a scheduled basis, shellfish harvesters will be audited by the Food Authority for compliance with requirements.

Spat production businesses are not audited, but are inspected to ensure compliance.

Compliance or regulatory action will be taken if required.

There are fees for inspections, payable by the licence holder.

For more see audits of licensed businesses.

Legislation & standards

As an operator in the shellfish industry you need to meet the relevant requirements of the:

  1. Food Act 2003 (NSW)
  2. Food Regulation 2015
  3. Food Standards Code, including
    • Standard 3.2.1, Food Safety Programs
    • Standard 3.2.2, Food Safety Practices and General Requirements
    • Standard 4.2.1, Primary Production and Processing Standard for Seafood (except for cultivation of spat. However, businesses are required to clearly identify all shellfish sold as ‘spat’ and ‘not for human consumption’. Spat production businesses are not audited, but are inspected to ensure compliance.) 
  4. NSW Shellfish Industry Manual
  5. Adverse Sampling Compliance Policy
  6. Marine Biotoxin Management Plan
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