MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY -

 New regulations are taking effect in North Carolina to help keep shellfish safer for people to eat.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries says the rules taking effect Tuesday stipulate how quickly shellfish must go from harvest to refrigeration.

Now fishermen must record the time of start of harvest on a tag attached to shellfish containers. They must then deliver the shellfish to a licensed dealer within 12 hours of the time on the tag. The dealer must then refrigerate the shellfish within two hours of receiving them.

The new rules are designed to the spread of Vibrio bacteria, naturally-occurring bacteria that can cause serious illness. The bacteria multiply rapidly when the shellfish are exposed to air temperatures warmer than 50 degrees.