Sanitary Control of Shellfish

Chapter 246-282 WAC, Sanitary Control of Shellfish, establishes standards for the growing, harvesting, processing, and marketing of molluscan shellfish for human consumption. The State Board of Health (Board) serves as the rulemaking body and the Washington Department of Health (Department) serves as the regulatory agency. The Department also serves as the state shellfish authority administering the model ordinance of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).

On February 23, 2022, the Board filed a CR-101, Preproposal Statement of Inquiry, to explore revisions to the shellfish sanitation rules. The rulemaking is considering miscellaneous editorial and technical revisions along with updates to WAC 246-282-006, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) Control Plan.

As background, Vp is naturally occurring marine bacteria that can cause serious illness when consumed in raw or undercooked molluscan shellfish. Vp levels can dramatically worsen during warm-weather events as water and air temperatures rise. The Vp Control Plan authorizes enforcement of the rule’s strictest time-to-cooling requirements for harvested oysters starting July 1 of the Vp control season. However, heat wave conditions starting in late June 2021 resulted in a sharp increase in shellfish related Vp illnesses and illustrated the need for a more flexible rule to address such conditions earlier in the Vp control season.

Complementing rulemaking on the chapter, on March 9, 2022, the Board delegated emergency rulemaking authority to the Department to amend WAC 246-282-006 to allow enforcement of the strictest time-to-cooling standards to protect public health and safety in the event heat-wave conditions occur prior to July 1 of the Vp control season and prior to completion of the concurrent rulemaking on the chapter. On May 17, 2023, the Department filed an emergency rule amending WAC 246-282-006, filed as WSR 23-11-074. The rule will remain in effect for 120 days following the filing.

For more information on this rulemaking visit the Department’s rulemaking web page and to stay informed on the rulemaking and other Vp related information, sign up for Vibrio email notices from the Department.

Statutory Authority: RCW 43.20.050RCW 69.30.030
State Board of Health Contact: 
Shay Bauman, 564-669-8929
Department of Health Contact: 
Dani Toepelt, 360-236-3347

Related Links: Meeting Materials