Capstone Title

A Comparison of Marine Bacterial Indicators in Shellfish Along the Eastern Seaboard

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Second Advisor

Curtis Burney


The results of several studies on marine bacterial indicators and their relationship to shellfish are compared to assess the sources of pathogenic enteric viruses found in the shellfish and the overlying waters. The main source of pathogens to coastal waters was found to be input from urban runoff but also from sewage outfall pipes, septic tank leakage, and from more diffuse sources like livestock farms and animal waste products. Bacteria and enteric viruses such as E. coli, Shigella, hepatitis A virus, andNorwalk virus, are able to persist in the environment and are typically found in much higher concentrations in the flesh of shellfish. Bivalve shellfish will feed by filtering their food items out of water where they live. In conditions where the marine environment is unspoiled, shellfish are a reasonable safe food source. In waters where contaminants are found, pollutants can be concentrated in the tissue of the mollusks making them not fit for human consumption. Bacterial diseases associated with eating shellfish from polluted nearshore waters have been documented for over 100 years. To ensure the quality and health of the Atlantic coastal waters, it is important to monitor pathogen input from streams, estuaries and urban runoff so that risk is minimized and there is no economic interruption in the business associated with the harvest of shellfish. Although the term “shellfish” can apply to most crustaceans, for the applications in this paper, the term will apply only to bivalve mollusks such as scallops, clams, oysters and mussels.

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