Shellfish Testing


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.


  • In 2017 a new more sensitive test method was implemented for testing the shellfish biotoxin, domoic acid, produced by the harmful phytoplankton Pseudo nitzschia. Over the course of the month long harmful algal blooms in Narragansett Bay in March 2017 this method was employed to protect public health and safeguard the shellfish industry and the state’s shellfish reputation by determining when it was necessary to stop harvesting and when the bloom was over so that it was safe to resume harvesting and consuming Rhode Island shellfish.
  • Joined the Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative a partnership of government, business, academia, and community to strengthen our state’s shellfish management practices and promote growth and innovation within our local seafood industry.