Protocol for the Export of Live Whelks from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to Canada

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1. The whelk fishery: A well-supported, well-managed fishery

1.1 Whelk fishing in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

In the past, whelks were primarily fished as an alternative bait, particularly in the days of the "great cod fishery." Known locally as "coucous," whelks are also consumed by Saint-Pierre and Miquelon residents, who collect them on the shore or buy them from stores in the archipelago.

A few fishing enterprises currently harvest this resource, which is sold locally or exported to Asian markets.

Whelks are also of interest to Canadian processing companies in Newfoundland, some of which have already established trade relations with Saint-Pierre and Miquelon fishers.

Local whelk landings are estimated at about 80 tonnes.

1.2 Administrative and scientific management by France

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon has a large administrative structure for overseeing and monitoring aquaculture activities and remains in constant contact with France, which is represented locally by the Prefecture.

The Direction des Territoires, de l'Alimentation et de la Mer (DTAM) is an interdepartmental directorate that represents the Department of Ecology and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries in the archipelago.

The DTAM Food Service has a bacteriological analysis laboratory staffed by a veterinary engineer and three technicians who conduct tests and serve as official food safety inspectors. Some complementary testing is performed in French laboratories.

The Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) is also represented in the archipelago. IFREMER conducts studies on the status of the environment and resources and advises professionals on fishing, aquaculture and shellfish farming methods. It also provides funding for studies and development projects.

The Chambre d'Agriculture, de Commerce, d'Industrie, de Métiers et de l'Artisanat (CACIMA) and the Territorial Council of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon also provide guidance and funding to businesses and professional organizations.

1.3 An opportunity for regional cooperation

Trade relations have already been established between certain French and Canadian parties. The whelk fishery is part of that complementary, mutually beneficial approach.

From a science perspective, studies conducted in French waters near whelk beds fished by Canada could generate complementary data on the status of the resource and lay the groundwork for ongoing scientific exchanges between Canada and France.

This collaboration will enable both parties to develop their common resources south of Newfoundland while guaranteeing that the products are safe for consumption.

In addition, the Jellett kits used by the DTAM laboratory are manufactured in New Brunswick. Comparative studies of three analytical methods (Jellett kits, ELISA tests, and official tests by the IDAC laboratory in Nantes) could represent a new opportunity for regional cooperation.

2. Protocol for the export of live whelks from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to Canada

2.1 Analysis of the risk of phycotoxins in whelks

Data on whelks and the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

The whelk (Buccinum undatum) is a non-filter-feeding marine gastropod found on the sea bottom at a maximum depth of approximately 53 fathoms. It prefers muddy, sandy substrates. The whelk is necrophagous and can exhibit carnivorous behaviour.

The risk of contamination from the consumption of whelks containing phycotoxins is low in southern Newfoundland and the archipelago.

The fishing area delineated by the competent authority and authorized by prefectural order is located in the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon EEZ, specifically in the waters surrounding the islands (maximum of 24 miles) and on the sea bottom at a maximum depth of 53 fathoms.

Units fishing for whelks as authorized by prefectural order have a limited fishing range: they cannot go farther than 20 nautical miles from the coast.

The Saint-Pierre and Miquelon EEZ is surrounded by the Canadian EEZ. It is located south of Newfoundland, at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The water quality is similar to that of southern Newfoundland. The likelihood of detecting toxins in the southern Newfoundland area is acknowledged to be very low.

For commercial reasons, fishers fish only the whelk species Buccinum undatum. The fishing techniques involve the use of whelk pots with a mesh size large enough to avoid catching other species and whelks with very small shells. These large-mesh whelk pots come from a Canadian supplier. Fishers perform a preliminary sort aboard the fishing vessel to ensure that the lot is homogeneous and return any species other than Buccinum undatum to the water.

When vessels land whelks at Saint-Pierre Harbour, an official inspector checks the homogeneity of the lot and takes representative samples for marine phycotoxin testing.

2.2 Analytical methods used

The samples are tested for three marine phycotoxin families: amnesic (ASP), lipophilic (DSP, PTXs, AZAs, YTXs) and paralytic (PSP). The tests are performed by two laboratories: the laboratory of the Institut Départemental d'Analyses et de Conseil (IDAC) in Nantes, France, and the DTAM analytical laboratory in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

The IDAC laboratory is accredited for this type of testing. It employs the following methods, as required by European Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 and Regulation (EC) No. 2074/2005:

  • ASP: LNRBM-ASP 01;
  • PSP: LNRBM-PSP 01 as set out by AOAC; and
  • lipophilic phycotoxins: AFSSA-LERQAP/TOP-NATI02.

The total quantities of marine biotoxins (measured in the whole body or any part edible separately) may not exceed the following limits:

  • for paralytic shellfish poison (PSP), 800 micrograms per kilogram;
  • for amnesic shellfish poison (ASP), 20 milligrams of domoic acid per kilogram;
  • for okadaic acid, dinophysistoxins and pectenotoxins together, 160 micrograms of okadaic acid equivalents per kilogram;
  • for yessotoxins, 1 milligram of yessotoxin equivalent per kilogram; and
  • for azaspiracids, 160 micrograms of azaspiracid equivalents per kilogram.

The DTAM laboratory is certified by the competent authority under Prefectural Order No. 833, dated December 23, 2008. For tests aimed at obtaining authorization to land catches in Newfoundland, the laboratory uses Jellett chemical kits to test for PSP and the official 2006.02 ASP ELISA method to test for ASP (Annex III, Regulation (EC) No. 2074/2005).

The DTAM laboratory also uses Jellett kits to perform comparative testing for ASP and DSP phycotoxins, as well as ELISA tests to perform comparative testing for PSP and DSP phycotoxins.

The Jellett kits are used to test for the three marine toxin families (ASP, DSP and PSP). The Jellett company is working with the National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Marine Biosciences to validate the kits.

The ELISA tests are used to test for the three marine phycotoxin families (ASP, DSP and PSP).

The Jellett chemical kit used to test for PSP has been approved by the USDA since 2004.

The ELISA tests are a recognized ASP detection method under Regulation (EC) No. 2074/2005.

2.3 Whelk fishing protocol

Before the whelk fishing season

The whelk fishery traditionally opens in early May and closes in September, around the time when the cod fishery resumes. Fishing area monitoring begins in April, the month before the fishery opens.

Sample collection and testing will be carried out according to the following schedule:
Date Tests Requested Method -
Official
IDAC
Method -
Kit
SPM lab
21 days before fishery opens ASP yes yes
21 days before fishery opens PSP yes yes
21 days before fishery opens DSP yes yes
21 days before fishery opens Other lipophilic phycotoxins yes no
14 days before fishery opens ASP yes yes
14 days before fishery opens PSP yes yes
14 days before fishery opens DSP yes yes
14 days before fishery opens Other lipophilic phycotoxins yes no
7 days before fishery opens ASP yes yes
7 days before fishery opens PSP yes yes
7 days before fishery opens DSP yes yes
7 days before fishery opens Other lipophilic phycotoxins yes no

The sampled whelks will come from known whelk (Buccinum undatum) beds. The beds are fished using lines of 50 pots.

The samples will be collected by the official inspectors of the DTAM Food Service from fishing vessels upon arrival at Saint-Pierre Harbour.

The inspector will prepare the samples for analysis in the following manner:

  • Three samples to be tested for phycotoxins (ASP, DSP and PSP) using Jellett kits by the DTAM laboratory. The Jellett tests for ASP and DSP phycotoxins are performed on behalf of the competent authority.
  • Three samples to be tested for phycotoxins (ASP, DSP and PSP) using ELISA tests by the DTAM laboratory. The ELISA tests for PSP and DSP phycotoxins are performed on behalf of the competent authority.
  • Three samples to be sent frozen to the IDAC laboratory for official tests (ASP, PSP and the lipophilic phycotoxins, i.e. DSP, PTXs, AZAs and YTXs).
  • Three samples to be sent to the sample bank of the DTAM laboratory.

The samples for IDAC are shipped frozen via a carrier by the competent authority. The samples must be analyzed upon receipt. The tests will be performed on whole body tissue.

Samples will also be sent to the IDAC laboratory for the environmental contaminant analyses required by the CFIA. The contaminants for which the CFIA requires shellfish to be tested are:

  • TCDD (dioxin)
  • DDT and metabolites (DDD and DDE)
  • PCB
  • Mercury

These analyses meet the requirements of Appendix 3, Canadian Guidelines for Chemical Contaminants and Toxins in Fish and Fish Products, of the CFIA Fish Products Standards and Methods Manual.

All of the test results will be sent to the CFIA before the start of the fishing season.

During the fishing season

Once a week during the fishing season, three series of tests will be performed on whelks collected from the fishery. The samples will be collected by the official inspectors of the DTAM Food Service from vessels in port at Saint-Pierre Harbour.

The inspector will prepare the samples for analysis in the following manner:

  • Three samples to be sent frozen to the IDAC laboratory for official tests (ASP, PSP and the lipophilic phycotoxins, i.e. DSP, PTXs, AZAs and YTXs). These samples will be sent frozen via a carrier to IDAC by the competent authority. The samples must be analyzed upon receipt. The tests will be performed on whole body tissue.
  • Three samples to be tested for phycotoxins (ASP, DSP and PSP) using the Jellett kits by the DTAM laboratory. The Jellett tests for ASP and DSP phycotoxins are performed on behalf of the competent authority.
  • Three samples to be tested for phycotoxins (ASP, DSP and PSP) using ELISA tests by the DTAM laboratory. The ELISA tests for PSP and DSP phycotoxins are performed on behalf of the competent authority.
  • Three samples to be sent to the sample bank of the DTAM laboratory.

The samples sent to the DTAM Food Service laboratory in Saint-Pierre will be analyzed before the whelks are unloaded in Canada. The samples will be analyzed using Jellett kits and ELISA tests.

The DTAM Food Service will send the test results to Newfoundland health authorities (CFIA, customs) by e-mail or any other means necessary. A copy will be sent to the vessel owner and seafood processing plants concerned.

The following results will be sent:

  • Jellett kit: PSP phycotoxin test results
  • ELISA tests: ASP phycotoxin test results
  • IDAC laboratory: ASP, PSP and lipophilic phycotoxin test results

The results of the Jellett and ELISA tests performed by the DTAM Food Service laboratory are provided for information purposes, to obtain permission for whelks to be unloaded in Canadian ports. They are not a replacement for the official lot release tests performed by the IDAC laboratory in Nantes, France.

Once the results of the screening tests (kits) and official tests are received, a notice will be sent to the Canadian importer with which the fishers or vessel owner have signed a contract and to Jodi Elliott at jodi.elliott@inspection.gc.ca Tel: W: 709-772-6555 C: 709-691-5499 fax: 709-772-2282 at the CFIA.

If the test results reveal contamination levels over the limits and a recall has to be initiated, the recall notice must immediately be sent to coordinator the Regional Operations Coordinator, Joe Pickett, who is available 24/7 at joe.pickett@inspection.gc.ca Tel: 709-772-4587 C: 709-687-3963 fax: 709-772-2282 and to Jodi Elliott at jodi.elliott@inspection.gc.ca Tel: W: 709-772-6555 C: 709-691-5499 fax: 709-772-2282.

In the event of adverse official test results, the competent authority for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon must contact the Health Emergency Mission (alertes.dgal@agriculture.gouv.fr) of the Directorate General for Food in Paris, France, which will record the notification and transmit it to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO).

2.4 Contacts

Jean-Michel Rogowski
Director
Direction des Territoires, de l'Alimentation et de la Mer
Constant Colmay Boulevard
P.O. Box 4217
97500 Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Tel.: 508 41-12-02
jean-michel.rogowski@equipement-agriculture.gouv.fr

Hélène Guignard
Assistant Director
Direction des Territoires, de l'Alimentation et de la Mer
Constant Colmay Boulevard
P.O. Box 4217
97500 Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Tel.: 508 41-12-45
helene.guignard@equipement-agriculture.gouv.fr

Francis Louis
Head, Food Service
Direction des Territoires, de l'Alimentation et de la Mer
Quai de l'Alysse

P.O. Box 4217
97500 Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Tel.: 508 41-20-55
francis.louis@equipement-agriculture.gouv.fr

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