The mission of the NHDES Shellfish Program is to examine the sanitary quality of the state’s tidal waters, in order to ensure that the molluscan shellfish in those waters meet standards for consumption by those who enjoy harvesting these public resources.
To this end, the DES Shellfish Program
1) evaluates the sanitary quality of all coastal shellfish growing waters in the state, and ensures that these evaluations are kept current through periodic re-evaluations;
2) identifies pollution sources and other factors that render the state's shellfish resources unfit for human consumption;
3) works with local officials, other state agencies, environmental organizations, and members of the public to eliminate pollution sources, especially those that limit opportunities for shellfish harvesting; and
4) informs and educates the public about the sanitary quality of the state's tidal waters and shellfish resources, as well as potential health risks associated with shellfish.
To ensure the protection of public health, the Shellfish Program maintains a number of monitoring programs in the seacoast area. The Ambient Monitoring Program involves regular collection of water quality samples from over 75 locations in the Great Bay Estuary, Hampton/Seabrook Harbor, Little Harbor, and the Atlantic coast, focusing on monitoring bacteria levels in seawater. Supplemental sampling of seawater and shellfish samples is conducted following pollution events such as heavy rain, accidental sewage discharges, and others, in order to properly manage temporary closures of harvesting areas. The "Red Tide" Monitoring Program involves the weekly collection of blue mussels from two sites (April through October) to check the levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) toxin in shellfish meats. Shellfish staff assist with the GulfWatch Program, which monitors the levels of toxic substances in blue mussels on an annual basis. Finally, the Shellfish Program conducts Sanitary Surveys of shellfish growing waters and the surrounding land areas. These surveys, which are required in order to open shellfish beds for harvesting, involve a variety of activities including ongoing pollution source surveys, general water quality monitoring, and hydrographic, meteorologic, and other studies.
In the State of New Hampshire, the management of shellfish sanitation, harvesting, and resource health is divided among three state agencies. DES is responsible for determining which growing areas meet standards for human consumption of molluscan shellfish. The Fish and Game Department is responsible for issuing harvesting licenses, managing the shellfish resources, and enforcing the open/closed decisions made by DES. The Department of Health of Human Services regulates various aspects of the commercial shellfish industry, including shucking, packing, shipping, etc. DES works closely not only with F&G and DHHS, but also with a number of other organizations including the NH Coastal Program, the NH Estuaries Project, the University of New Hampshire/Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Great Bay Coast Watch. DES has also formed partnerships with the private sector, including FPL Energy Seabrook Station, Great Bay Marine, Inc., and the Star Island Corporation.