Growers and harvesters of bivalve molluscan shellfish (BMS)

If you grow or harvest BMS commercially, you must operate in a classified growing area and meet requirements under the BMS Regulated Control Scheme (BMS RCS).

Requirements for growers and harvesters

You need to meet the food safety requirements under the following legislation:

  • BMS RCS Regulations
  • Animal Products (Specifications for Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Notice.

Animal Products (Specifications for Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Notice [PDF, 1.1 MB] 

Where you can grow or harvest shellfish

All BMS commercially grown or harvested in New Zealand must come from a shellfish growing area that is classified for harvest for human consumption. You can establish your own or join an existing area.

Classified growing areas are registered with MPI and available on a list maintained by MPI.

Setting up a BMS growing area

If you intend to establish and operate a BMS growing facility, you first need to seek approval from your local Regional Council.

They will advise you of the water-use and land-use permits and any resource consents that may be required.

To meet your food safety requirements, your first point of contact is your local MPI Animal Products Officer. They are responsible for:

  • all the requirements you need to meet under the BMS RCS
  • ensuring the work is undertaken.

Applying to classify a new growing area

Before a new growing area can be classified and listed, a sanitary survey must be conducted and completed by a MPI Animal Product Officer. This involves:

  • a survey of the area
  • water and flesh studies
  • the preparation of a sanitary survey report and a management plan.

A sanitary survey can take at least 12 months, but usually longer.

Once the sanitary survey has been completed and any relevant management plans put in place, the Animal Product Officer will make a request to MPI's Regional Shellfish Specialist for the growing area to be listed by MPI.

Parts 2 and 3 of the Animal Products (Specifications for Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Notice sets out the process for getting a growing area classified. The classification requirements are specified in the BMS RCS.

Managing a growing area

Every growing area has a management plan prepared by the MPI Animal Product Officer. The plan covers aspects of your operation which present a hazard to food safety. These include management of waste water, pollution, marine biotoxins and harvesting procedures.

Details are defined in the following clauses of the Animal Products (Specifications for Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish) Notice:

  • part 4, clause 4.1 (1)
  • part 5, clause 5.1 (1)
  • part 3, clause 6.1 (1)

The Animal Products Officer produces an annual report on the growing area to ensure the area remains compliant.

Sampling of shellfish and growing waters

Growing areas are maintained through ongoing sampling of shellfish and the water where they grow. The scope and frequency of sampling is set out in the management plan for the area. All sampling is done by a certified sampler.

You can apply to be a shellfish and water sampler.

MPI maintains a list of all certified samplers.

Applying to join an existing growing area

If you want to join an existing growing area, you need to phone the MPI Animal Product Officer in your area.

The process begins with the Animal Products Officer:

  • completing a report
  • seeking approval from existing members of the growing area for you to join.

Once agreement is gained, the Animal Product Officer then:

  • makes a request to MPI’s Shellfish Specialist for you to be listed on the MPI Food Safety website
  • arranges for your authority identifier to be added beside the growing area on the national list of growing areas.

Your authority identifier is a unique number. Where that number appears on the list, it means you are permitted to grow or harvest BMS there.

Finding out if a growing area is open or closed

From time to time growing areas are closed due to adverse weather or pollution conditions, or marine biotoxoin events.

Your management plan explains how the opening or closing of the classified growing area is notified and the system you use to do this. Systems may differ from area to area.

If an area is closed due to marine biotoxins and product is recalled, the release of product by the Animal Products Officer is based on a guideline. 

Release of Fish or Fish Product Detained or Recalled for Marine Biotoxin Reasons Guide  [PDF, 337 KB]

Joining a Shellfish Quality Assurance Programme Delivery Centre (SQAPDC)

Under the BMS RCS, you must provide consumers and regulatory agencies, such as MPI, with an assurance that shellfish you grow, harvest, transport or store is safe to eat.

BMS industry groups come together to provide a cost-effective programme to ensure shellfish operators in each growing and harvesting area comply with the RCS requirements. These groups are called Shellfish Quality Assurance Programme Delivery Centres (SQAPDCs).

Guidelines have been developed to help with the establishment and management SQAPDCs.

Shellfish growers or harvesters can choose to be a member of a local SQAPDC or form their own SQAPDC. Either way, the growing area classification, testing, surveys, inspections, reporting requirements and other requirements of BMS RCS need to be met.

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