Welcome to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Seafood Technology Bureau webpage. As a regulatory authority for Mississippi's seafood industry, it is our duty to ensure that commercial seafood is processed and prepared safely for the consumer market.

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HACCP Training Classes

Basic Sanitation Workshop

Application for New Seafood Dealer/Processor

Seafood Technology Education Materials and Publications

Harmful Algal Blooms FAQ

Update 12/23/2015

HABs Mississippi December 2015 

Harmful Algal Blooms FAQ

Q. What is a HAB?
A. A harmful algal bloom is a higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic algae (plant-like organisms) in the water. These blooms are harmful because they produce a toxin that can affect fish, shellfish, marine mammals, birds and people. These blooms occur when colonies of algae (microscopic plants that live in the water) grow out of control. They can flourish when conditions such as wind, water currents and temperature are favorable. These blooms can produce toxic effects on fish, shellfish, marine mammals, birds and people.

Q. What are some of the effects of HABs?
A. The toxins associated with Karenia brevis, the species in the Mississippi Sound, can affect the central nervous system of fish, marine mammals and birds, potentially causing the animals to die. When the blooms are in high concentrations, wave and wind action can cause the toxins to be released in the air and cause eye and respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and itching) in humans and pets. Individuals with chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma or emphysema should be especially cautious as they may experience stronger reactions.

Q. Are HABs normal at this time of year?
A. Karenia brevis, the species that is in the Mississippi Sound now, is common in the Gulf of Mexico along the Gulf Coast of Florida, although blooms typically occur between August and October. Generally the blooms end between December and February. Mississippi is experiencing conditions that are more favorable for the blooms, given the warm water and air temperature and winds.

Q. How long can HABs last?
A. The duration of the blooms depends on physical and biological conditions, such as water temperature, wind direction, wind speeds, water currents, sunlight and salinity.

Q. Why were the beaches and oyster reefs closed?
A. MDMR closed the oyster reefs, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality closed the beaches as a precautionary measure because of the potential of toxins in the water and close to the shore.

Q. Is it OK for me to catch and eat fish?
A. Yes. If you go fishing, it is safe to eat the fillets of finfish. The toxins accumulate in the guts of fish. However, do not harvest or eat dead or distressed fish.

Q. Is it OK for me to purchase and eat seafood at restaurants and seafood markets?
A. It is safe to consume seafood purchased in restaurants and from seafood dealers. Seafood products are monitored and tested regularly.

Q. Is it OK for me to eat oysters?
A. Mississippi oysters harvested before the reefs closed Friday, Dec. 11, are safe to eat. Additionally, oysters purchased in restaurants and by authorized dealers are monitored and tested.

Q. What if I need more information or see something unusual that should be reported?
A. Several agencies are working together to help with any questions about the red tide and its effects. To report a fish kill, call the MDMR at 228-374-5000. To report dead or distressed birds, call 601-321-1131. If you see a marine mammal in distress, call the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies at 1-888-767-3657. For questions about beach closures, call 228-432-3447.

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Regulatory Programs - Inspections

The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Seafood Technology Bureau consists of two certified seafood officers whose responsibilities are to ensure the safety of Mississippi’s seafood. Because oysters, shrimp, and crab are popular ingredients in seafood dishes, it is vital that safe seafood is produced and sold to the general public. Consequently, DMR’s seafood officers conduct quarterly inspections of oyster, shrimp, and crab processing facilities. A thorough sanitation inspection of the facility and review of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) records are conducted during an inspection.

When owners of seafood businesses plan to open their facilities, the first thing that must be purchased is a seafood dealer’s license. This license can be purchased at the DMR’s licensing office and is good for one year. In addition to purchasing the license, the bureau strongly recommends the owner or a representative of the company attend a HACCP training course. HACCP will provide you with proper knowledge about preventive measures that can be followed to ensure your seafood products are protected from food hazards. HACCP courses are taught live and on the internet. To view the list of live classes, click here. To take the course online, click here.

Once your license has been purchased and HACCP training is complete, your facility will be ready for inspection. A pre-operational inspection will be conducted to verify if the facility meets the general requirements. Coincidentally, a water sample will be also be taken to verify that the water quality is free from contaminants. Once water results are analyzed, an initial certification inspection will be conducted. When your facility is certified, routine inspections will be conducted on a quarterly basis and follow-up inspections will be conducted as needed.

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Regulatory Programs - Water Sampling

During the months of March (recertification quarter) and September (beginning of oyster season), a DMR Seafood Officer will visit your facility to collect a water sample from your well or city water system. The water sample is analyzed at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory for bacteria that may be present in the water supply that is used in the processing operation. If levels are positive, a DMR Seafood Officer will return to the plant for a resample. DMR Seafood Officers will return the water sample results to you.

For information on the proper procedures to disinfect your well, visit the Mississippi Department of Health's procedures here.

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