Winter 2016 Maine DMR Public Health Newsletter


2016 Shellfish Warden Certification Training

The Department of Marine Resources will be holding our annual municipal shellfish warden certification class on March 15 and 16 at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast from 8am-5pm each day. There are currently 19 wardens eligible for recertification, and 6 new wardens signed up to become certified.

Traditionally the training has been led primarily by Marine Patrol with assistance of the shellfish management program staff. However, this year, DMR has hired Mike Pinkham to lead the training. Mr. Pinkham is a former DMR Marine Patrol officer and the current municipal shellfish warden for Gouldsboro and Steuben. He has over 35 years of experience enforcing marine resource laws and regulations. He served as a Marine Patrol officer for over 33 years, and the past two years as a Shellfish Warden. The in-person training is coupled with the online training component developed in 2013.

If there are any towns that currently are in need of a new shellfish warden, or have one that is planning to leave soon, please feel free to contact Angel Ripley who will be happy to walk you through the nomination process to add a prospective warden to the upcoming training. . For current and former shellfish wardens, please keep in mind that you may retain your certification even if you are not currently employed by a town.

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Damariscotta River Vibrio Control Plan Mandatory Training

DMR Regulation Chapter 115, Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Control Plan, approved in October, 2015, is intended to prevent Vibrio illness outbreaks related to the consumption of oysters and hard clams from the Damariscotta River. (Find a copy of the rule here; scroll down to Chapter 115). Section 115.04(D) requires mandatory, annual training of harvesters and certified shellfish dealers who take or are the initial purchasers (primary dealers) of oysters or hard clams from the Damariscotta River.

DMR is scheduling two in-person training sessions in 2016: February 10 from 11am-1pm and February 22 also from 11am-1pm. Both trainings will be held at the DMR Boothbay Harbor facility at 196 McKown Point Rd., West Boothbay Harbor, ME 04575.

Please RSVP to Angel Ripley. Walk-ins are also welcome. Attendance will be recorded and submitted to Marine Patrol.

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Municipal Shellfish Conservation Closure Process - By Denis-Marc Nault - Shellfish Management Program Supervisor

At the end of 2014, the DMR Regulation Chapter 7 for Municipal Shellfish Management Programs went through some changes. Some of the revisions were due to requirements in state law and were designed to better protect and serve all parties. One of these changes was to the timing to apply to DMR for shellfish conservation closures and mandatory advertisement of approved closures and reopenings. DMR now requires the conservation closure application 20 business days prior to the effective closure date. On receipt of the application, the Area Biologists create a GIS Map (similar to Public Health Closure maps) of the closure, make sure the written description of the closure is specific enough for legal enforcement and review the application for accuracy. Based on the content and completeness of the application , there may be some back and forth between DMR staff and town officials.

DMR also requires public posting of the approved closure 5 days prior to the closure date and a copy of this posting must be sent to DMR. It is a Criminal Violation for harvesting in a closed area, therefore the advertisement and accuracy of conservation closures is critical. Closure notices cannot be posted before a town receives approval from DMR. There is also a 5 day public notification requirement for reopenings. If a town would like scheduled reopenings, they can request an automatic reopening date on the application. Requests for immediate reopenings due to flood closures or other emergency circumstances should not be made as the turnaround time is in excess of two weeks.

DMR will also no longer accept "automatic" closures of all pollution areas in a town shellfish management program. If a town wishes to close a Restricted or Prohibited area, then they must follow the proper procedure each time they want to add or remove an area. There is an effort to involve the town shellfish management programs in advance of all upgrades and downgrades of shellfish areas in case there is a desire to enact a conservation closure or remove an existing one. Generally, staff from the DMR Growing Area program (water quality) will contact towns four weeks in advance of a classification change providing time for local management.

A new feature on the DMR Shellfish Management webpage which provides all the conservation closures, license allocations, town shellfish ordinances and maps is located here.

All of the updated application forms for conservation closures and various conservation activities are located here.

If you have any problems with these forms please contact your Area Biologist or the Shellfish Program Coordinator, assignments and contact information can be found here.

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Flood Closure Procedure - By DMR Scientist Erick Schaefer and Public Health Bureau Director Kohl Kanwit

In the event that heavy rainfall occurs, a decision must be made to determine if a widespread emergency closure of shellfish harvesting areas is necessary due to degraded water quality resulting from runoff. The DMR may enact emergency flood closures during storm events of two inches or more of rain in 24 hours or less.

The decision to close shellfish areas is based on many factors, but relies on the underlying premise that a lot of rain in a relatively short period of time can negatively impact water quality and therefore the safety of bivalve shellfish by transporting land source pollution through storm water runoff.

Assigned DMR staff members utilize weather reporting stations online in order to determine rainfall amounts by region. DMR also has a pollution reporting hotline and automated website that rain gauge monitoring volunteers call/use to report rainfall totals.

In the event that the determination has been made to make an emergency closure for all or part of the state, a senior DMR staff member delineates the closure to encompass the affected region. A legal notice is drafted with a map representing the closure which is then posted online and emailed to the DMR interested parties list. To sign up for closure and reopening notices sent directly by email, please scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the red envelope icon . Closures are confined, whenever possible to approximately four hours before the low tide and four hours after the low tide, in order to allow harvest of shellfish not yet impacted by the rain event and to prevent unnecessary enforcement actions. Emergency flood closures are made at all times of day or night so it is important harvesters check the DMR website or call the hotline (1-800-232-4733) before they go out on the flats.

Stay tuned for part II: Flood Sampling and Repealing a Flood Closure.

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Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) Biennial Meeting Update - By Kohl Kanwit

The ISSC held its biennial meeting in October, 2015. The ISSC is the governing body for the National Shellfish Sanitation Program which is a US Food and Drug Administration, state government and industry partnership that develops and implements the Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish and the Model Ordinance. The ISSC ensures the uniform safety of bivalve shellfish such as clams, mussels and oysters produced in any region of the country and participating international partners such as Canada and New Zealand.

Any changes to the current Guide for the Control of Molluscan Shellfish and Model Ordinance are done through a proposal process. Anyone, including state authorities, the US FDA or industry members can submit a proposal prior to the biennial ISSC meeting. Proposals that are not resolved in the initial submission year are carried forward to future meetings. The numbering of the proposals indicates what year they were originally submitted, for example a proposal submitted in 2013 would be 13-XXX and one from 2015 would be 15-XXX. Highlights of the 2015 ISSC meeting include:

  • Three proposals incorporating the use of male specific coliphage testing, which is a viral indicator, were approved for adoption as modified (Proposals 13-118, 15- 102 and 15-106);
  • Guidance for determining the size of Prohibited areas around waste water treatment plant outfalls was approved for adoption (Proposal 13-118);
  • A proposal to add a new definition for "re-submergence" and a re-submergence section to Chapter V. was referred to Committee for development (Proposal 13-209);
  • States will now be required to establish submarket sized for all species of shellfish (Proposal 15-107);
  • Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP) of shucked shellfish meats will be referred to committee for development (Proposal 15-208); and
  • A charge to the appropriate committee to completely revise the Aquaculture Chapter of the Model Ordinance (Proposal 13-107).

There were many more issues discussed including counting and reporting Vibrio illnesses, minimum samples sizes for biotoxin reopenings, clarifying the duties of state Lab Evaluation Officers and the development of a "reconditioning" option for product implicated in an illness outbreak.

A highlight from the seminar day of the ISSC meeting was the recognition by FDA that Maine's biotoxin program utilizing the HPLC method instead of the mouse bioassay is the model for all other states to emulate within 10 years. The difficulty in producing saxitoxin standards for the mouse bioassay and the increasing importance of new and emerging marine biotoxins (ASP for example) are pushing the transition.

The ISSC is THE vehicle for modifying or changing shellfish regulations at the national level. If you have ideas for the 2017 meeting and would like DMR assistance or support, please be in touch early in the process. Prior to all ISSC meetings, DMR hosts an information session where we review proposals and discuss the state position. Proposals and the state position are also discussed at the Shellfish Advisory Council meetings. Questions can be directed to Kohl Kanwit.

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Certified Shellfish Dealer update - by The Shellfish Inspection Team

One of the most common debits we see in the receiving part of the shop is a lack of information on incoming harvester tags. A standard harvester tag dealers buy from a print shop has all the spaces provided for the required information, but there is often a space or two left blank and that can mean trouble for a certified dealer to receive that product.

The most common information slot we see empty or incomplete is the time harvested. Obviously when the slot is blank the product should be rejected by the dealer. When it's incomplete it will not include an "AM" or "PM" after the time written. This is particularly important with the new time to temperature regulations (DMR Chapter 9.08) that require shellstock to be placed in refrigeration at the original dealer within 18 hours of harvest time. This receiving time is a Critical Limit on dealers' Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and must be documented that the 18 hour time limit has been met.

Dealers should already have a "Date and Time Received" column on the receiving log and by matching the harvester tag against the receiving log dealers will be able to demonstrate that the critical limit was met. If the times are not complete on either record, this counts against you as the certified dealer. It takes a lot of reminding for the harvesters to keep up with this tagging requirement but eventually they get it, especially if you explain why. Below is a copy of an example harvester tag, make sure all these fields are on your harvester's tags and filled in correctly! The correct time of harvest is the time the harvester first starts digging or dragging.

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Stream Sampling - By DMR Marine Resources Technician Matthew Ondra

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Bureau of Public Health is tasked with monitoring the health and safety of shellfish and the growing areas from which they are harvested throughout the coast of Maine. In an effort to better understand the impact of rainfall and non-point source pollution on these growing areas the DMR is required to conduct stream sampling.

Stream sampling focuses on areas of the Maine coast that are susceptible to potential degradation of water quality. Streams are identified using Geographic Information System (GIS) and topographical maps. The stream locations are then verified by on-the-ground observation. In 2015, 200 stream stations were established and over 550 water samples were collected between April and November in western Maine alone. These samples were analyzed for fecal coliforms, a bacterial indicator of pollution. Sources of fecal coliform pollution include storm-water run-off, septic failures, and wildlife and domestic animal waste, any of which can make shellfish unsafe for human consumption.

Stream data collected each season helps elucidate the specific impact of streams and the effects they have on adjacent shellfish growing areas and their classification under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. This information is then used in management to define safe shellfish harvest areas and/or remediation efforts to improve the quality of the water entering and impacting those areas.

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Water Quality Sampling - By DMR Marine Resource Specialist Edward Thier

The Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Bureau of Public Health is responsible for implementing the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) in Maine. The NSSP ensures that public health standards are met consistently throughout the nation, keeping bivalve shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels safe for human consumption. The US Food and Drug Administration provides general guidelines that must be met by all states.

Shellfish growing areas in Maine are classified based on a number of factors, including a shoreline survey of pollution sources , and water quality monitoring. Water quality monitoring in this case refers to regularly testing the concentration of fecal coliforms in the seawater shellfish filter feed along the coast. Shellfish are filter feeders and through the filtering process can concentrate bacteria and any other contaminant from the water in their guts making them unsafe for human consumption.

Maine DMR personnel and certified volunteers collect water samples at approximately 1,450 stations along the coast from Eliot to Calais. The locations are chosen based on shellfish resources, aquaculture, and to monitoring of potential and actual pollution sources. Each point is given an identifying code and latitude and longitude are determined. Most stations that are used to classify growing areas must be sampled at least six times a year while the area is open for harvest. Stations near waste water treatment facilities must be sampled every month. Every attempt is made to schedule samples randomly with respect to tide and weather conditions. Additional stations can be established for short periods of time to collect investigative data about local sources of pollution or the effects of rainfall.

Whether sampling by land or boat, specific sampling procedures must be followed to ensure accurate results. Samples are collected within 300 feet of the designated station. Samples must be collected in water that is at least eighteen inches deep. A sterile Whirlpack' bag and tongs are used to scoop up water below the surface layer and without stirring up mudsediment. Time, date, water temperature and wind direction are recorded. The sampler also notes any field conditions that could affect the sample such as recent rainfall, water fowl, animal waste, concentrations of boats, etc.

Samples are stored in a cooler with ice packs and a calibrated thermometer to make sure they are kept between 0 and 10 degrees C (32-50 degrees F) until they can be delivered to DMR laboratories in Boothbay Harbor and Lamoine. A chain of custody is kept to track samples after collection until they arrive at the laboratory to ensure proper quality controls have been met. DMR sampling personnel are given annual refresher training to make sure all these procedures are followed. Volunteers are also trained annually and are accompanied by a DMR scientist on at least one sampling trip each year to make sure they know the correct sampling locations.

Water sampling is hard work especially during the winter months however it also is a great way to get outside and see many beautiful parts of the coast!!

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