The National Shellfish Register of Classified Estuarine Waters (Register) provides a detailed analysis of the shellfish growing areas in coastal waters of the United States. A primary focus of the register is the status of shellfishing waters with respect to human health. Data also is collected on such shellfish-related topics as trends in water quality and shellfish productivity, pollution ... sources and effects, and state shellfish management programs. The register project is one element of the National Estuarine Inventory (NEI), a series of activities that define and characterize the Nation's estuarine resources and develop a national estuarine assessment capability.
The National Shellfish Register was initiated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1966, and has been published thereafter every five years. Currently the register is produced by NOAA in conjunction with the Interagency Task Force on Shellfish Growing Waters, which includes the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Fish and Wildlife Service. Within NOAA, the register project is conducted by the Human Activities Assessment Branch of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Division.
The register examines and illustrates a variety of topics associated with shellfish growing areas including: 1) Trends in the quality of shellfishing waters recorded with regard to four pollution-based classifications, 'approved', 'conditionally approved', 'restricted', and 'prohibited', and the total acreage of estuarine waters for each of these classifications; 2) Pollution sources that contribute to the permanent or temporary closure of shellfishing waters, summarized by acreage for each harvest-limited area for each of 14 pollution source categories, organized into point, nonpoint, and upstream sources; 3) Recent trends in the commercial landings of four major types of shellfish (oysters, clams, scallops, and mussels) and area-specific data regarding major causes of reductions in shellfish landings; 4) The administration of state shellfish management programs, compiled for each state and relating to the number of shellfishing areas that are managed, the total classified acreage, the proportion of acres that are sampled and/or monitored for health purposes, the number of sampling stations, the average area of sampling station coverage, and other information regarding state resource allocations (i.e., budget and personnel expenditures).
The database covers over 3,000 individual shellfish growing areas encompassing approximately 19 million acres of classified estuarine waters in 23 coastal states, including Alaska and Hawaii. The data are aggregated by 122 estuaries identified by the NEI, and in Alaska, by five fishery management districts. Data also apply to non-estuarine shellfishing areas extending seaward to the three-mile limit (offshore areas), accounting for an additional 1.5 million acres. Information regarding shellfish management programs is aggregated at the state level. Data are organized into five regional components: the North Atlantic, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific.
The status of classified shellfishing waters has been recorded at five-year intervals since 1966. The register was expanded in 1985 to include data on the other shellfishing topics indicated above. Data on shellfish landings have been recorded at annual intervals since 1985. Data relating to pollution sources and state management programs represent conditions for 1985, 1990 and 1995.
The 1995 Register characterizes the status of over 4,200 shellfish-growing waters in 21 coastal states, reflecting an assessment of 24.7 million acres of estuarine and non-estuarine waters. Over 77 million pounds (meat weight) of oysters, clams and mussels were harvested from these waters in 1995, having a dockside value of $200 million. For the first time, the report includes such factors as relative shellfish abundance, the basis for classification, the status of shellfish restoration efforts, and the potential to upgrade harvest classification for each growing water. The data elements collected in previous Registers are also provided; these include growing water name and location, harvest classification, area, and the types of pollution sources contributing to harvest limitation.