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Archived - Notice to Industry - Marine Biotoxin Monitoring in Geoducks in British Columbia

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is updating its approach for marine biotoxin (paralytic shellfish toxin - PSP, amnesic shellfish toxin - ASP, and diarrhetic shellfish toxin - DSP) monitoring in areas where geoducks are harvested.

As of February 6, 2017, new sampling procedures will apply as follows:

  1. In harvest areas where geoducks are the only commercially harvested species (or the fishery opening is limited to geoduck), CFIA will use geoducks as the indicator for marine biotoxins. Mussel samples are not required.
  2. In harvest areas where geoducks and other bivalve species are commercially harvested, CFIA will test geoducks as the indicator for marine biotoxin levels in geoducks, and will continue to test mussels as the sentinel species for marine biotoxin levels in all other bivalve species.

Harvest area monitoring programs established by the CFIA are the main tool used to manage marine biotoxins in coastal regions and protect consumers from the consumption of contaminated product. Typically, these monitoring programs use mussels as the sentinel species to provide early warning or an indication of contamination in commercially harvested species, especially when multiple shellfish species are harvested commercially from the same area.

Recent information reveals that marine biotoxin levels in mussels do not consistently and accurately predict the marine biotoxin levels in geoducks (i.e. while biotoxin levels in mussels are acceptable and an area is "Open", geoducks may have unacceptable biotoxin levels). Based on this information, the CFIA will be testing geoducks directly to manage the risk of marine biotoxins in commercially harvested geoducks in British Columbia. This improvement to current practices will result in increased confidence in the safety of geoducks.

Marine toxins in geoducks will be managed separately and independent of other commercial species as the marine toxin levels are not directly linked. Marine toxin levels in geoducks only pertain to the management of geoduck harvest and marine toxin levels in mussels are only relevant to non-geoduck harvest. It is possible that marine toxin levels may result in closure or opening for geoduck harvest but not for other species, and vice versa.

This change does not affect requirements for processors or exporters of geoduck or other bivalve shellfish. Processors will continue to implement their existing Quality Management Program plans, which includes verification that product is sourced from areas in the "Open" status.

In addition to these changes, the CFIA encourages additional risk management practices implemented by industry, such as the use of biotoxin rapid test kits by shellfish harvesters to assist them in making business decisions related to on-site harvest activities.

CFIA is also reminding samplers to provide all required information with the samples in order to facilitate timely sample processing.  Acceptance or prioritization of samples for analysis may be affected where sample description information is incomplete, incorrect or illegible. This may lead to precautionary closure of harvest areas or delays in opening. This consistent with the current Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program partners' risk-based approach of closing an area on a precautionary basis if a scheduled sample is not received.

For any questions, please contact your local CFIA office.

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