Shellfish Growing Area Quality Indicator

In 2010, 73% of Canada's shellfish growing area was classified as approved or conditionally approved for shellfish harvesting for human consumption. On the Atlantic coast, 66% of the shellfish growing area was approved or conditionally approved, compared to 80% on the Quebec coast and 77% on the Pacific coast. From 2006 to 2010 the percentage of approved and conditionally approved growing area did not change. While there can be local, short-term closures due to storms or other events, overall Canada's shellfish growing areas are stable.

Classifications of Canada's shellfish growing areas, 2006 to 2010

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Long description

The graph shows the area in square kilometres that was classified as approved/conditionally approved and restricted/conditionally restricted/prohibited for shellfish harvest in each of Canada's three shellfish growing regions (Atlantic, Quebec, Pacific) each year between 2006 and 2010.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Shellfish growing area classifications are based on fecal coliform contamination and presented as the total shellfish growing area assigned to each class. The total shellfish growing area for Quebec changed in 2009 because of the addition of a large new area off the Magdalen Islands as well as improvements to how shellfish growing areas are measured. As such, shellfish growing area percentages for Quebec before 2009 should not be compared to percentages from 2009 onward. The 2010 Pacific data may not be comparable to previous years because area classification methods were revised in late 2010.
Source: Environment Canada (2011) Marine Water Quality Monitoring Program.

In 2010, approximately 15 500  km2 of shellfish growing area along the coastlines of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec (North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, Magdalen Islands, Lower St. Lawrence River, Gaspésie and Charlevoix regions) and British Columbia (Vancouver Island, Central and North coasts and Queen Charlotte Islands) were monitored to ensure shellfish collected in these areas were safe to eat. For the purposes of the Shellfish Growing Area Quality Indicator,  shellfish are oysters, clams, geoduck clams, mussels, scallops and cockles. Because they feed by filtering the water washing over them, they collect bacteria and viruses from the surrounding waters. High levels of bacteria in water suggest disease-causing organisms may be present at high enough levels to cause illness in humans who eat shellfish from these contaminated areas. Human and animal wastes are rich in bacteria and enter shellfish growing areas from several land-based pollution sources, including municipal wastewater treatment plants, poorly-maintained septic systems and run-off from agricultural areas, as well as sea-based sources such as boats and wildlife.

Environment Canada conducts bacterial testing of waters in shellfish growing areas under the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP). The CSSP is led by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in partnership with Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The program is designed to reduce the chance people will get sick from eating shellfish collected in the wild or grown in aquaculture. To determine if shellfish are safe to eat, each growing area is monitored and classified as approved, conditionally approved, restricted, conditionally restricted or prohibited for fishing based on the concentration of bacteria in the water and the effects of pollution sources such as municipal wastewater discharge or boating activities. If unsafe bacteria levels are measured and/or if shoreline investigations show pollution concerns, Environment Canada recommends to its CSSP partners that shellfish harvesting in the growing area be restricted or prohibited. Fisheries and Oceans Canada closes the shellfish growing areas based on these recommendations.

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