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Part 41, Section 41.3 - Sanitary Condition of Shellfish Lands - Regulatory Impact Statement

Consolidated Regulatory Impact Statement

1. Statutory authority:

The statutory authority for designating shellfish lands as certified or uncertified is given in Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) section 13‑0307. Subdivision 1 of section 13‑0307 of the ECL requires the Department of Environmental Conservation (the department) to periodically conduct examinations of all shellfish lands within the marine district to ascertain the sanitary condition of these areas. Subdivision 2 of this section requires the department to certify which shellfish lands are in such sanitary condition that shellfish may be taken for food. Such lands are designated as certified shellfish lands. All other shellfish lands are designated as uncertified.

The statutory authority for promulgating regulations with respect to the harvest of shellfish is given in ECL section 13‑0319.

2. Legislative objectives:

The legislative objectives are to ensure that shellfish lands are appropriately classified as either certified or uncertified and to protect public health by preventing the harvest and consumption of shellfish from lands that do not meet the standards for a certified shellfish land.

3. Needs and benefits:

Regulations that designate shellfish lands as certified are needed to allow the harvest of shellfish from lands that meet the sanitary criteria for a certified area. Shellfish are a valuable state resource and, where possible, should be available for commercial and recreational harvest. The classification of previously uncertified shellfish lands as certified may provide additional sources of income for commercial shellfish diggers by increasing the amount of areas available for harvest. Recreational harvesters also benefit by having increased harvest opportunities and the ability to make use of a natural resource readily available to the public. The direct harvest of shellfish for use as food is allowed from certified shellfish lands only.

Regulations that designate shellfish lands as uncertified are needed to prevent the harvest and consumption of shellfish from lands that do not meet the sanitary criteria for a certified area. Shellfish harvested from uncertified shellfish lands have a greater potential to cause human illness due to the possible presence of pathogenic bacteria or viruses. These pathogens may cause the transmission of infectious disease to the shellfish consumer.

These regulations also protect the shellfish industry. Seafood wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants are adversely affected by the public reaction to instances of shellfish related illness. By prohibiting the harvest of shellfish from lands that fail to meet the sanitary criteria, these regulations can ensure that only wholesome shellfish are allowed to be sold to the shellfish consumer.

4. Costs:

There will be no costs to State or local governments. No direct costs will be incurred by regulated commercial shellfish harvesters in the form of initial capital investment or initial non‑capital expenses, in order to comply with these proposed regulations.

The department cannot provide an estimate of potential lost income to shellfish harvesters when areas are classified as uncertified, due to a number of variables that are associated with commercial shellfish harvesting; nor can the potential benefits be estimated when areas are reopened. Those variables are listed in the following three paragraphs.

As of September 17, 2013, the department had issued 1,725 New York State shellfish digger's permits. The actual number of those individuals who harvest shellfish commercially full‑time is not known. Recreational harvesters who wish to harvest more than the daily recreational limit of 100 hard clams, with no intent to sell their catch, can only do so by purchasing a New York State digger's permit. The number of individuals who hold shellfish diggers permits for that type of recreational harvest is unknown. The department's records do not differentiate between full‑time and part-time commercial or licensed recreational shellfish harvesters.

The number of harvesters working in a particular area cannot be estimated for the reason stated above. In addition, the number of harvesters in a particular area is dependent upon the season, the amount of shellfish resource in the area, the price of shellfish and other economic factors, unrelated to the department's proposed regulatory action. When a particular area is classified as uncertified (closed to shellfish harvesting), harvesters can shift their efforts to other certified areas.

Estimates of the existing shellfish resource in a particular embayment are not known. Recent shellfish population assessments have not been conducted by the department. Without this information, the department cannot determine the effect a closure or reopening would have on the existing shellfish resource.

The department's actions to classify areas as certified or uncertified are not dependent on the shellfish resources in a particular area. They are based solely on the results of water quality analyses, the need to protect public health, and statutory requirements.

There is no cost to the department. Administration and enforcement of the proposed amendment are covered by existing programs.

5. Local government mandates:

The proposed rule does not impose any mandates on local government.

6. Paperwork:

No new paperwork is required.

7. Duplication:

The proposed amendment does not duplicate any state or federal requirement.

8. Alternatives:

There are no acceptable alternatives. ECL section 13‑0307 stipulates that when the department has determined that a shellfish land meets the sanitary criteria for certified shellfish lands, the department must designate the land as certified and open to shellfish harvesting. All other shellfish lands must be designated as uncertified and closed to shellfish harvesting. These actions are necessary to protect public health.

9. Federal Standards:

There are no federal standards regarding the certification of shellfish lands. New York and other shellfish producing and shipping states participate in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) which provides guidelines intended to promote uniformity in shellfish sanitation standards among members. NSSP is a cooperative program consisting of the federal government, states and the shellfish industry. Participation in the NSSP is voluntary; each state adopts its own regulations to implement a shellfish sanitation program consistent with the NSSP. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates state programs and standards relative to NSSP guidelines. Substantial non‑conformity with NSSP guidelines can result in sanctions being taken by FDA, including removal of a state's shellfish shippers from the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List. This would effectively bar a non‑conforming state's shellfish products from interstate commerce.

10. Compliance Schedule:

Compliance with any new regulations designating areas as certified or uncertified does not require additional capital expense, paperwork, record keeping or any action by the regulated parties. Immediate compliance with any regulation designating shellfish lands as uncertified is necessary to protect public health. Shellfish harvesters are notified of changes in the classification of shellfish lands by mail either prior to, or concurrent with, the adoption of new regulations. Therefore, immediate compliance can be readily achieved.

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