Sanitary Control of Shellfish

The State Board of Health (Board) and the Washington Department of Health (Department) collaborate to regulate the sanitary control of molluscan shellfish via chapter 246-282 WAC, Sanitary Control of Shellfish. The Board serves as the rulemaking body and the Department serves as the regulatory agency. The Department also serves as the state shellfish authority administering the model ordinance of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).

On February 23, 2022 the Board filed a CR-101, Preproposal Statement of Inquiry, to initiate rulemaking to update the shellfish sanitation rules, chapter 246-282 WAC. The rulemaking will consider miscellaneous editorial and technical updates to the rules along with updates to WAC 246-282-006, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) Control Plan.

As background, Vp is naturally occurring marine bacteria that can cause serious illness when consumed in raw or undercooked molluscan shellfish. Vp levels can dramatically worsen during warm-weather events as water and air temperatures rise. The Vp Control Plan authorizes enforcement of the rule’s strictest time-to-cooling requirements for harvested oysters starting July 1 of the Vp control season. However, recent events illustrate the need for a more flexible rule. From June 26 to July 2, 2021 the National Weather Service in Seattle reported a long-duration, unprecedented heat wave throughout the Pacific Northwest. Shellfish-related Vp illnesses increased sharply. The current rule does not allow enforcement of the strictest control measures before July 1 if temperatures are high due to unpredictable weather events.

Complementing rulemaking on the chapter, on March 9, 2022,  the Board delegated emergency rulemaking authority to the Department to amend WAC 246-282-006 to allow enforcement of the strictest time-to-cooling standards to protect public health and safety. This emergency rulemaking authority would be exercised only in the event heat-wave conditions occur prior to July 1 of the Vp control season and prior to completion of the concurrent rulemaking on the chapter.

For more information on this rulemaking visit the Department’s rulemaking web page and to stay informed on the rulemaking and other Vp related information, sign up for Vibrio email notices from the Department..

Statutory Authority: RCW 43.20.050, RCW 69.30.030
State Board of Health Contact: Stuart Glasoe, 360-236-4111
Department of Health Contact: Dani Toepelt, 360-236-3347

Related Links: Meeting Materials