Shellfish Harvester Education

***2019 Shellfish Harvester Education class date is Tuesday, April 16th, 6:30-9pm***

Shellfish Harvester Education


As shellfish aquaculture grows and more new growers start farms in the state, Rhode Island shellfish have become stars on the national culinary stage. The growth and popularity of the half shell market for oysters is a fun and delicious way to enjoy RI shellfish. With this growth and fame, it is increasingly important to ensure our thriving shellfish industries stay viable and that the public stays safe & healthy in terms of raw shellfish consumption in particular.

To ensure new and existing shellfish farmers are handling their product in a way that is safe and temperature controlled, educational opportunities were offered. One course will be offered in the spring 2019. The courses are part of a collaborative effort between the Coastal Resources Center/Rhode Island Sea Grant at URI, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, and Roger Williams University. The lead instructor will be Dr. Robert Rheault, an aquaculture industry expert. Work is funded by NOAA’s National Sea Grant program.

Starting in 2016, CRMC requires all shellfish farming business owners to attend a harvester training class to meet new federal regulations. The FDA and the interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference have recently mandated that states carry out periodic harvester training to ensure that all harvesters are fully aware of the regulations required to ensure that our shellfish are wholesome and safe.

Anyone holding an aquaculture lease or intending to apply for a lease THAT HAS NOT TAKEN A TRAINING IN 2018 should sign up to attend the winter 2019 training. The sessions will address the specific requirements of aquaculture lease holders and the harvest of shellfish during the warm-weather months requires special attention due to the potential for food-borne illness related to Vibrio bacteria.

The session will cover all of the federal and state shellfish harvesting regulations including tagging requirements, harvest area specifications, vessel design and maintenance regulations, and more. Much of the course will focus on explaining the new state Vibrio Management Plan and the new harvest controls implemented in 2015. These restrictions are designed to protect shellfish from thermal abuse during summer months to prevent the post-harvest growth of Vibrio bacteria and ensure wholesome shellfish.

Vibrios are naturally-occurring bacteria that are common in warm sea water and can cause food-born illness in shellfish consumers. Shellfish harvesters and farmers need to understand the importance of keeping shellfish cool to prevent the proliferation of Vibrios to ensure that shellfish are safe. This is particularly true for shellfish that are destined for raw consumption. While it is also important for shellfish dealers, restaurants and consumers to keep shellfish cold, harvesters have a critical role in ensuring that Vibrios are controlled at the source. It is important that harvesters and farmers understand the new Vibrio control regulations so we can protect public health and maintain the outstanding reputation of Rhode Island shellfish in the marketplace.

2019 Harvester Training-Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 6:30-9pm

Location at Roger Williams University. Training will be recorded and available online.

Tonight’s Class Notes:

The course is free and open to the public; however space is limited so registration is encouraged. Drop-ins permitted as space allows. For more information or to register, contact Dr. Rheault at:

Past Trainings

2016 Shellfish Harvester Training presentation (January 2016)