The Milford Haven Port Health district comprises approximately 30 miles of mainly estuarial waters. Within this area there are many shellfish layings which are commercially harvested from time to time.
The Port Health Team monitors the harvesting of cockles, oysters, mussels and other bivalve molluscs, to ensure that they meet the appropriate standards for processing in order to prevent illness to consumers. The team also has responsiblity for monitoring any harvesting of shellfish along the whole of the Pembrokeshire coastline, approximately 190 miles long.
In order for a new area to be classified for a particular species of live bivalve mollusc, an application must be made to Pembrokeshire County Council and the Food Standards Agency.
The Authority then consults with relevant interested parties prior to commencing the sampling programme. The Food Standards Agency formally ‘designate' the area on the recommendation of CEFAS (the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) once sufficient data has been received regarding shellfish and water quality at the site. It can take upwards of 6 months from start to finish.
Registration Documents are issued upon request to commercial fishermen who wish to harvest live bivalve molluscs from designated sites, to enable them to transport their catch to processing plants. To request registration documents, contact the Port Health team.
Pembrokeshire County Council is a member of the South West Wales Local Action Group (LAG ) which was set up in 2007 under measures introduced by the Food Standards Agency for the Long Term Classification of Designated Shellfish Harvesting Areas. The group is made up of representatives from various relevant agencies, and also from the shellfish industry.
The Group has a Local Action Plan that is brought into operation when trigger levels for contamination are exceeded. There are three tiers of response depending on the levels of E-coli bacteria found in shellfish flesh monitoring samples. A Tier 1 response triggers a minor investigation whereas a Tier 3 investigation would be much more extensive and could result in closure of the shellfish harvesting area in question. Information is shared by the Action Group members in order to ensure consistency.
Pembrokeshire County Council is also responsible for monitoring shellfish and water quality for algal biotoxins. Shellfish and water samples collected by Port health officers are sent to CEFAS laboratories in Weymouth and Lowestoft to be analysed for the presence of Amnesic Shellfish Poison (ASP), Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison (DSP) and Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) toxins. The presence of these toxins in shellfish flesh above defined action limits may cause illness and have potentially fatal consequences for consumers of these products.
Pembrokeshire County Council, therefore, has power to close any affected shellfish beds in order to protect potential consumers. Please contact the Port Health team for information on the current status of shellfish beds in Pembrokeshire.