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Quality of shellfish waters

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Quality of shellfish waters


Directive 2006/113/EC on the environmental quality of shellfish waters


  • The European Union (EU) establishes compulsory quality criteria for EU countries’ shellfish waters.
  • In this way, it seeks to safeguard certain shellfish from the harmful effects of discharges of 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.


EU countries are responsible for designating 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 EU countries are designated as shellfish waters, these countries 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, EU countries 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 originally established in line with Directive 2006/11/EC on the discharge of certain substances into the aquatic environment (and, since 2013, incorporated in Directive 2000/60/EC, the EU's Framework Water Directive).

EU countries had to establish programmes allowing them to comply with the limit values they set within 6 years of designation.


The competent authorities for each EU country 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 EU 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.


Directive 2006/113/EC, which replaced Directive 79/923/EEC, had to be incorporated into EU countries’ national law by 6 November 1981.


Directive 2006/113/EC was repealed by Directive 2000/60/EC (the Water Framework Directive) in 2013. The rules set down in Directive 2006/113/EC, particularly in regard to microbiology and physical-chemistry parameters of relevance to river basin management plans, were integrated in the Water Framework Directive.


Directive 2006/113/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the quality required of shellfish waters (codified version) (OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, pp. 14–20)

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


Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, pp. 1–73). See consolidated version.

last update 08.05.2016