Planning to Deal Shellfish? Read on.

Licensed shellfish harvesters must sell product to a certified shellfish dealer in Virginia. You are considered a certified shellfish dealer if you hold a Certificate of Inspection from the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Safety (VDH, DSS).

Certification requires 1) an onsite inspection, 2) a HACCP plan and trained employees, and 3) ongoing compliance.

After initial inspection, and each year following, if compliance is maintained, the dealer will receive a Certificate of Inspection (COI) and be listed on the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL). Harvesters may only sell shellfish to, and retail stores and restaurants may only receive shellfish from, sources listed on the ICSSL. Certifications must be renewed every year, by September 30.

Dealers interested in becoming certified or re-certified must complete an application and submit it to the appropriate Field Office. Once received, you will be assigned a reserve certification number. This number does not constitute certification.

During the initial onsite inspection of your physical plant location, the inspector will briefly outline the HACCP implementation and sanitation requirements. As the dealer, it is your responsibility to be knowledgeable of the requirements in the most recent version of the NSSP MO. The inspector will provide you with a list of deficiencies to be corrected before being issued a COI. Following issuance of the COI, the inspector will make unannounced visits to your facility to review records and sanitation compliance.

A HACCP plan is a written food safety system that identifies key points in the process where controls must be applied and monitored. A HACCP plan can prevent hazards, thus protecting the consumer from a foodborne illness. During your initial onsite inspection, and after any changes, your inspector will provide you with a written HACCP plan and associated record templates. There must be at least one person associated with the business who is trained in seafood HACCP. The extent of training depends on the level of compliance. A dealer certified as a Shellstock Shipper (SS) must complete at least the one-day HACCP course. This course is offered a couple times per year and is instructed by VDH DSS staff in collaboration with the Marine Advisory Program at VIMS.

All employees must be trained in proper food handling and personal hygiene practices as they pertain to their assigned job duties. Documentation of employee training must be kept. VDH DSS has created a two-page dealer training information sheet, available in both English and Spanish. This can be obtained upon request, but dealers are encouraged to pursue other training opportunities as needed. The NSSP MO requires the VDH DSS conduct at least semiannual inspections of Shellstock Shippers. The dealer’s compliance with the MO is evaluated during each inspection. Findings are reported to the dealer in writing. Each inspection should show compliance with any deficiencies noted in the previous inspection.

Know your county/city zoning regulations to ensure you can do what you propose to do. Be aware of all applicable county and city permits and business license requirements. The VDH DSS does not help with this process.

A Shellfish Shipper grows, harvests, buy or repacks and sells shellfish. They are not authorized to shuck shellfish or repackage shucked shellfish.

Points of contact to get certified:

Call the appropriate VDH Shellfish Safety Officer

Whitestone: 804-435-1095

Norfolk: 757-683-8461

Accomac: 757-902-4283

Do not buy anything until you talk with VDH Shellfish Safety.

Know the answers.
  • How are you planning to get the shellfish to land? (Boat, walking out, off dock?)
  • How much product are you planning to harvest
  • Are you grading on shore or at the harvest site?
  • Do you have facilities to refrigerate your product?
  • Who are you selling to?
  • How do you plan to transport your product?
  • Do you plan to harvest in warm water months (May-October)?

Dealer tags must include:
  • dealer name, address, certification number from Virginia Shellfish Sanitation office
  • original shellfish shipper certification number
  • harvest date, harvest location (most precise location possible)
  • type and quantity of shellstock
  • if depurated, the date of depuration, cycle or lot number
  • if wet storage, the original harvest date, lot number that begins with a “w”

Shellfish tags identify and track shellfish as they move through the market. All commercially harvested shellfish must be tagged by a certified dealer prior to being sold, marketed, consumed, or transported to any location other than to a certified dealer for relocation. Dealer tags must include the following required statements.

  • Keep refrigerated
  • This tag is required to be attached until container is empty or is retagged and thereafter kept on file for 90 days.
  • Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

Be aware of time/temperature abuse during…
  • handing at harvest
  • Transport to dealer
  • Handling by dealer
  • Transport to retailer
  • Handling by retailer

Your shellfish dealer certification does not cover food service operations. Contact your local health department for regulations. Bulk tags are not allowed at events. Each individual container has to be tagged per VDH Food Code.