An explanation of shellfish water protected areas in the context of Regulations and river basin management plans.

What are shellfish water protected areas?

Shellfish water protected areas are areas designated for the protection of shellfish growth and production. Good water quality is important for the production of high quality shellfish. Water bodies can be impacted by pollution from various sources, such as run-off from agricultural land or discharges from sewage treatment works.

Why are areas designated?

Pollution Reduction Programmes were originally established under Article 5 of the Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/EC) which stated that all Member States should establish programmes in order to reduce pollution in designated shellfish waters.

Shellfish Action Plans

Shellfish Action Plans will next be reviewed on a priority basis starting in 2021 which is in line with the third River Basin Cycle under the Water Framework Directive.

Once shellfish are harvested, they are categorised by the Food Standards Agency before being placed on the market for public consumption. This process ensures that the purification of shellfish is sufficient to protect public health.

DAERA works closely with the Food Standards Agency in managing shellfisheries from both an environmental and public health perspective.

Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive(WFD) originally established a legal framework for the protection, improvement and sustainable use of Europe’s water environment. This has been taken forward through the introduction of River Basin Management Plans.

The European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) has been transposed into Northern Ireland regulations through The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017. The Water (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 ensures that the Water Framework Directive (as transposed) and the various supporting pieces of water legislation continue to operate here after 1 January 2021. These supporting regulations are listed at Schedule 2 of The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017. The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), as amended by Directives 2008/105/EC, 2013/39/EU and 2014/101/EU, established a new integrated approach to the protection of the water environment. The Directive was transposed in Northern Ireland through the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017.

Within the River Basin Management Plan Structure, existing shellfish waters have now become Water Framework Directive Protected Areas, for the protection of economically significant aquatic species.

DAERA proposes to align the timetable for the review of shellfish water designations with other River Basin Management Plan processes.  These are reviewed every six years, which would not be sufficiently frequent, and so it is proposed that reviews are carried out every three years. 

All shellfish water protected areas will be assigned an environmental objective under the Regulations (through river basin management plans). The Food Standards Agency also classifies each bed individually under the Food Hygiene Regulations.

More useful links

Lists of shellfish water protected areas

There are 10 shellfish water protected areas in Northern Ireland. These are contained in the following lists:

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