Shellfish Safety Monitoring Programme

In order to protect consumers’ health, Ireland has a Shellfish Safety Monitoring Programme in place, to ensure shellfish containing biotoxins are not harvested and placed on the market. Biotoxins are naturally produced by phytoplankton in seawater. As shellfish are filter feeders, they can accumulate biotoxins in their flesh – which could cause illness if eaten.

How does the monitoring programme work?

The programme is supervised by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority and the Marine Institute, under service contract to the FSAI. Samples of farmed and wild shellfish are collected from harvesting areas, around the coast of Ireland, and tested for the presence of four biotoxin groups:

  • amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP)
  • azaspiracid poisoning (AZP)
  • diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP)
  • paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)

The main species of shellfish tested are:

  • clams
  • mussels (both cultured and wild caught)
  • native and pacific oysters
  • razor clams
  • scallops

The results of the most recent tests are used to give each shellfish harvesting area a biotoxin status of:

  • Open – areas with two clear samples, taken 48 hours apart
  • Closed – areas with a biotoxin positive sample
  • Closed pending – areas with one clear sample but awaiting the result of the second sample taken 48 hours later

Only shellfish from open areas are allowed to be harvested and placed on the market.

Where can I find the testing results?

Results of testing carried out under the Shellfish Safety Monitoring Programme are available from the Marine Institute.
See shellfish monitoring results from the Marine Institute’s website  

Any questions or comments?

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Last reviewed: 4/4/2018

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