Shellfish Testing

Mission

To assure the safety of shellfish grown in Rhode Island by testing shellfish, shellfish harvesting areas and holding facilities for microbiological and chemical contaminants.

What we do

  • Analyze water samples collected from shellfish growing areas of the Narragansett Bay and the state’s salt ponds weekly for fecal contamination.
  • Report laboratory results to the DEM shellfish program for decisions made to close shellfish harvesting areas based on high fecal coliform counts or re-open the shell fishing areas when it is safe to resume shellfish harvesting again.
  • Identify and quantify microbiological and chemical food contaminants following strict international quality standards.
  • Participate in the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), a network of qualified laboratories that respond to food contamination threats to the national food supplies.

Accomplishments

  • The program performed testing of plankton and shellfish for domoic acid, a toxin produced by the harmful phytoplankton Pseudo nitzschia, over the course of the month long harmful algal blooms that occurred in Narragansett Bay in October 2016 and again in March 2017. These efforts protected public health as well as the health of the shellfish industry by determining when it was necessary to stop harvesting and when the bloom was over so that it was safe to resume.