Frequently Asked Questions

Shellfish Condemnations

If the waters are condemned for shellfishing, can I harvest crabs?
Yes, while shellfish is used as a term for defining both molluscs (oysters, clams, scallops, etc.) and crustaceans(crabs, lobsters and shrimp), the Division’s Shellfish Closures refer ONLY to restrictions on the harvesting of molluscan shellfish.

If the waters are condemned for shellfishing, can I eat the fish or crabs?
Yes, the condemnation only applies to bivalve molluscan shellfish since they may concentrate bacteria and viruses from the water, and since their intestinal tract is often eaten raw.

If the waters are condemned for shellfishing, can I safely swim in the waters?
It is safe to swim in most condemned shellfish waters in Virginia. The shellfish standard is much more stringent than the swimming standard. However, there is always a certain degree of risk associated with swimming in any natural body of water.

How can I know for sure whether specific waters are approved for shellfishing?
First review the Division’s Shellfish Closures and Shoreline Surveys web page or the Division’s home page if there is an Emergency Closure, then if necessary, contact the nearest DSS Field Office in your area for information.

Can I grow oysters on my dock?
Click here to review Virginia MRC’s link concerning private aquaculture interests.

Can I eat oysters in months that don’t have R’s?
Not necessarily – review the CDC link concerning the dangers of vibrio bacteria.

Can I harvest oysters in Condemned waters if I don’t sell them?
No, shellfish harvesting waters classified as Condemned are closed to protect public health from illness regardless of commercial or private harvest.


Whom do I contact to become certified?
Check with staff from the nearest DSS Field Office to your area for contact information.

I wish to sell seafood, and I want to know what I need to do.
Review the section about who needs to be certified.  Note also that fish cutting operations are inspected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and that the taking of saltwater fish, crabs and shellfish from Virginia’s waters is controlled by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Should I have my construction completed before contacting DSS for certification?
No.  Prior to doing any construction or modification contact the nearest DSS Field Office to have a preliminary inspection.  This will assure the construction and materials will meet requirements without further modification.