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Quality of shellfish waters

The European Union establishes compulsory quality criteria for Member States' shellfish waters.


Directive 2006/113/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the quality required of shellfish waters [See amending act(s)].


The European Union takes measures to safeguard certain shellfish from the harmful effects of discharging pollutants into the seas.


The Directive concerns the quality of shellfish waters, i.e. the waters suitable for the development of shellfish (bivalve and gasteropod molluscs).

It applies to those coastal and brackish waters which need protection or improvement in order to allow shellfish to develop and to contribute to the high quality of shellfish products intended for human consumption.


It is the Member States' responsibility to designate shellfish waters. The list of designated waters may be amended to take into consideration factors not foreseen at the time of designation.

If waters immediately adjacent to borders with neighbouring Member States are designated as shellfish waters, these States must be consulted.

Quality criteria

The Directive establishes parameters applicable to designated shellfish waters, indicative values, mandatory values, reference methods of analysis and the minimum frequency for taking samples and measures.

The parameters applicable to shellfish waters are set for pH, temperature, coloration, suspended solids, salinity, dissolved oxygen and the presence or concentration of certain substances (hydrocarbons, metals, organohalogenated substances).

On the basis of these criteria, Member States establish the values with which the designated shellfish waters must comply. These limit values may be stricter than those set by this Directive. For metals or organohalogenated substances, these values must respect the emission rules established in line with Directive 2006/11/EC on the discharge of certain substances into the aquatic environment.

Member States must establish programmes allowing them to comply with the limit values they have set within six years of designation.


The competent authorities for each Member State must take samples from the waters to verify their conformity with the criteria set by the Directive. The following proportions of samples must conform to the established values:

  • 100 % of the samples for the parameters 'organohalogenated substances' and 'metals';
  • 95 % of the samples for the parameters 'salinity' and 'dissolved oxygen';
  • 75 % of the samples for the other parameters.


In the event of a disaster, special dispensation may be granted concerning the observance of the limit values and the criteria established.

Samples may be taken less frequently if the water quality is appreciably higher than it would be if the criteria established in accordance with European legislation were applied.

In the event of non-compliance with the limit values or the established criteria, the competent authority must establish whether this is the result of chance, a natural phenomenon or pollution and must take appropriate measures. These measures may on no account lead to increased pollution of coastal and brackish waters.


The Directive replaces Directive 79/923/EEC, but does not change its fundamental provisions.

Directive 2000/60/EC on water provides for the repeal of the Directive on the quality required of shellfish waters by 2013. This Directive integrates requirements relating to the quality of shellfish waters into its provisions relating to the analysis and protection of hydrographic basins.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2006/113/EC



OJ L 376, 27.12.2006

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311, 21.11.2008

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2006/113/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Last updated: 12.04.2011
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