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Recreational or Sport Shellfishing



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Is it safe for me to harvest and eat my own oysters, clams, and mussels?


Most coastal states, counties, or cities provide and monitor areas for recreational public harvesting of oysters, clams, or mussels. Water and/or shellfish in these harvest areas are routinely tested* to ensure they do not contain bacteria or viruses from sewage, toxins from natural algal blooms, or other contaminants that can cause human illness. If harmful contaminants are present, the area is closed to harvesting and signs are posted to warn of the danger. For added safety, some states close harvest areas during warm weather months when levels of naturally-occurring Vibrio bacteria tend to be higher.

Some states may require a permit and/or licenses to recreationally harvest shellfish and/or set limits on the amount you may harvest. Check with the department or agency responsible for monitoring public harvest areas in your state, county, or city.

* NOTE: Since Vibrio bacteria are naturally present in marine waters and are not a serious threat to most consumers, harvest areas are not usually tested for Vibrio. Therefore, it is not safe for high-risk consumers to eat raw or undercooked oysters, clams, or mussels from either commercial or recreational public harvest areas, even if the area is approved for harvesting. Thorough cooking of shellfish kills Vibrio bacteria. For more information about who is at risk for Vibrio vulnificus infection, see our Consumer's page here.

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Page last updated: October 11, 2017

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