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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

WA Shellfish Quality Assurance Program

As oysters and other bivalve molluscs are filter feeders, they have the ability to bio-accumulate bacteria, viruses, toxins, heavy metals, chemicals and other harmful substances from the waters in which they grow. Consumption of these substances can lead to an increased risk of foodborne illness.

As such, an aquaculture operator or commercial fishery operator must obtain a classification for the shellfish harvest area in accordance with the WA Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (WASQAP) Operations Manual 2017 and the Australian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (ASQAP) Operations Manual 2019. This classification must be undertaken prior to the commercial harvesting of bivalve molluscs for human consumption.

The key requirements for environmental and shellfish monitoring need to be met prior to the harvest of shellfish for human consumption, and apply to the commercial harvesting (wild capture, marine and land based aquaculture) of all bivalve mollusc shellfish, including but not limited to, edible oysters, cockles, clams, uneviscerated scallops and mussels.

Classification of shellfish growing and harvest areas

The classification of a shellfish growing area is managed by the WA Department of Health under one of the following classifications:

  • Approved Remote;
  • Approved;
  • Conditionally Approved;
  • Restricted;
  • Nursery/Source; or
  • Prohibited.

The classification is dependent on the sources of contamination identified in the initial stages of investigating a site. The classification process involves compiling a Sanitary Survey Report and Marine Biotoxin Management Plan for the Department of Health’s consideration and approval.

An overview of the steps involved in obtaining area classification to harvest shellfish for human consumption is set out below:

  1. Assess the area where the operator is growing or intends to grow or harvest shellfish for human consumption. As part of this assessment, identify and evaluate contamination sources which could adversely affect the water quality of the shellfish harvest area.
  2. If, in undertaking the assessment described at 1 above, no actual or potential pollution sources are identified, the aquaculture or commercial fishery operator will need to undertake a minimum of 15 water samples and, or, 15 shellfish samples from each of the sites determined appropriate as a result of initial investigations. These samples need to be collected under a range of environmental conditions.
  3. If, in undertaking the assessment described at 1 above, actual or potential pollution sources are identified, the aquaculture or commercial fishery operator will need to undertake a minimum of 30 water samples and, or, 30 shellfish samples from each of the sites determined appropriate as a result of initial investigations. These samples need to be collected under a range of environmental conditions.

Bacteriological, chemical and biotoxin water and, or, flesh testing of the samples conducted as part of steps 2 or 3 above will need to be undertaken by the aquaculture operator, commercial fishery operator (food business) to inform area classification. The samples will then need to be analysed by a laboratory accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities Australia (NATA).

  1. Following the investigative work involved in the sanitary survey and the associated sampling, the aquaculture operator, commercial fishery operator or food business must compile a Sanitary Survey Report and Marine Biotoxin Management Plan for the Department of Health to consider and to classify the area.

Once approved, the aquaculture operator, commercial fishery operator or food business must maintain this approval through regular testing, monitoring and reporting. The frequency of testing will vary depending on the results of initial surveys as well as marine biotoxin risk analysis.

To enhance communication especially during the confusion of COVID-19, DPIRD is committed to providing information from single points of contact within the Department. To support this communication, all WASQAP related queries should be directed to the DPIRD Aquaculture Shellfish Quality Assurance Officer.

Email Deborah.Gardner@dpird.wa.gov.au or phone 08 9203 0377 and leave a message with your contact details.

The duties of the WASQAP Officer include:

  • advising and assisting the shellfish aquaculture industry to understand and meet expectations around WASQAP; and
  • providing access to relevant and consistent documentation for WASQAP processes (such as the sanitary survey framework).

Last modified: 1/10/2020 1:26 PM

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The information and advice provided by the Department of Fisheries website is made in good faith and is from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release onto the website. Changes in circumstances after a document is placed on the website may affect the accuracy of the information. Full disclaimer details are available at www.fish.wa.gov.au.