Recreational Seafood Safety

Raw seafood

Eating raw fish or shellfish is the most frequent cause of seafood-borne illnesses. Raw seafood carries bacteria and other contaminates that may be harmful to consumers. Especially people with certain health conditions that impair their health defense systems, must avoid eating raw seafood.


Shellfish filter water to obtain food. This water may contain harmful types of bacteria or viruses that can concentrate and survive in shellfish. Mishandling of harvested shellfish can also contribute to the growth of bacteria.

Shellfish should only be harvested from approved coastal waters. Approved waters apply to all clams and oysters whether raw or cooked and scallops that are to be eaten raw.

All raw shellfish must be stored in refrigeration to slow or minimize bacterial growth. Direct storage in ice is not recommended and may kill the shellfish. Dead shellfish should not be eaten. Live shellfish should be iced indirectly in a cooler with insulation such as towels or paper that prevent direct contact with the ice.

Live Fish

Live fish can also carry parasites which are a natural part of the marine environment. In most instances, these parasites are not harmful to humans. Those visible can be removed with a knife. Ones that are not easily removed can be destroyed by cooking.

An added safety measure for consumers desiring raw fish or sushi is to place the seafood in frozen storage below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 48 hours prior to serving. This kills the parasites.