SHELBURNE COUNTY - There is community interest in a pilot project for Shelburne County that would result in regular testing for biotoxins and water-quality monitoring of local clam flats that have not been tested since being closed to recreational harvesting five years ago.
Three meetings with interested stakeholders were held by Environment and Climate Control Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Shelburne Dec. 10 and 11 to discuss the possibility of initiating a community-based, alternate service delivery pilot project for the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) in Shelburne County.
About 15 people from Queens County through to Clare attended the meeting for recreational harvesters, where a great deal of information was shared about the CSSP program and the local situation when it comes to clam digging.
As it is now, CSSP program delivery of harvest areas in Shelburne County hasn’t been conducted since 2013 due to limited resources, said Chris Roberts, regional marine water-quality monitoring manager for Environment Canada. “Currently all CSSP resources are fully committed to maintaining the classification of known high and medium-priority harvest areas,” he said.
With increasing demand for the expansion of access to shellfish harvest areas across Canada, the federal government is looking to increase the involvement of stakeholders in CSSP delivery to support program expansion, said Roberts, with Shelburne County one of three areas across Canada selected to explore alternative service delivery arrangements. “Stakeholder participation is key to maintaining classification or to establish classification in new areas,” he said.
Most coastal waters in Canada and in Nova Scotia are unclassified when it comes to harvesting shellfish, said Roberts, which is also an alternative. An underutilized harvest area can be declassified, meaning it would return to unclassified waters and there would be no testing to determine if the shellfish was safe for consumption. Under that scenario, people could dig for clams and not be breaking the law, even though it’s only recommended people harvest in areas that have been tested under the CSSP.
“In other words,” remarked one of the participants at the meeting, “we got to test our clams really good to sell to the American market, but we can declassify flats here and go dig and take a chance of getting sick on them because the government doesn’t have money for testing.”
Shelburne County Fish and Game Association member Rahn O’Connell volunteered the association “as one group that might help get the ball rolling” on an alternative service delivery program. “Maybe we would be interested in doing something,” said O’Connell. “If it means getting the flats opened up to recreational digging in Shelburne County.” He suggested municipal units in the county “could partner with us on this project.”
Barrington Warden Eddie Nickerson said he was “willing to step up to the plate” and would take the idea to his fellow councillors for further discussion, as well as contact other municipal leaders in the county.
In order for the pilot project to proceed, a proposal would have to be drafted in accordance with the CSSP guidelines that would outline the proponents’ commitment supporting the cost of monitoring and analysis, and ongoing testing of water quality and biotoxin levels. If the proposal is approved, the CSSP will commit to providing training and oversight to the third party conducting pollution source surveys, interpreting and reporting on the water-quality and biotoxin data and regulating harvesting.
In an interview following the information session, Roberts said there was excellent participation at the meeting with the Indigenous community, but not as large a turnout at the meeting for those interested in commercial harvesting. “The best feedback and participation we had was this afternoon from the recreational harvesters,” he said.
Roberts said if people want to get involved, it would be good to get proposals in by the end of February or the first of March, which would “give us enough time to look at it and see if it makes sense” and make any necessary changes. Roberts said the hope is to start testing by next summer. “We are looking to resolve some of these things as soon as possible,” he said.
Anyone interested in participating in an alternative service delivery arrangement for the CSSP in Shelburne County can contact Angela Smith at the Canada Food Inspection Agency at 902-742-0865 or email
Seeking proposals by late February/early March
Roberts said if people want to get involved, it would be good to get proposals in by the end of February or the first of March, which would “give us enough time to look at it and see if it makes sense” and make any necessary changes.