The Shellfish Sanitation Program is conducted in accordance with the guidelines set by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference contained in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program Guide For The Control Of Molluscan Shellfish Model Ordinance. The NSSP is administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Classifications of coastal waters for shellfish harvesting are done by means of a sanitary survey, which includes: a shoreline survey of sources of pollution, a hydrographic and meteorological survey and a bacteriological survey of growing waters. Sanitary surveys are conducted of all potential shellfish growing areas in coastal North Carolina and recommendations are made to the Division of Marine Fisheries of which areas should be closed for shellfish harvesting. These areas are available in map version.
A written sanitary survey report is required every three years from each shellfish growing area. This report summarizes and analyzes the data from the water sampling survey, the pollution source survey and the hydrographic and meteorological surveys. From the analysis of the sanitary survey data, the appropriate classification of the waters of the growing area are determined.
In order to correctly evaluate coastal waters for shellfish harvesting, an evaluation of the pollution sources that may affect the area is required. The shoreline survey is conducted of the shellfish growing area shoreline and watershed to locate pollution sources that could have an effect on area water quality. Every three years, shoreline survey staff walk the shoreline of all coastal shellfish growing areas in North Carolina looking for existing and potential sources of pollution. This shoreline survey is conducted as part of a federally mandated triennial sanitary survey to assess the proper classification of shellfish growing waters. Potential sources of pollution such as marinas, multi-slip docks, agricultural areas, subdivisions, septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants and ditching are all evaluated. These shoreline surveys are coupled with water quality sampling to provide a comprehensive look at the health of a given growing area and to assure proper classification. On a yearly basis, these surveys are updated to include any new pollution sources so that any changes can be accounted for within the management plan.
In 2002, the Shellfish Sanitation Program was awarded one of the largest grants in the 14-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency's Wetlands Program to refine the methodology used to conduct shellfish growing area shoreline surveys. The initial pilot project has been completed; it focused on four shellfish growing areas in Carteret County. The survey methodology uses both GIS and GPS mapping technology to identify and spatially map potential sources of pollution, including stormwater outfalls, marinas, slip docks, agriculture and new subdivisions.
In the 2006 legislative session, the section was enhanced with three new positions to expand the new shoreline methodology coastwide. The new shoreline survey methodology has been redesigned to meet the information needs of many different local, state and federal organizations, while at the same time fulfilling the guidelines required to be met by the NSSP. The new methodology includes extensive GIS mapping of pollution sources, compliance information regarding issued permits and other key pieces of data requested by the various agencies involved.