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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Marine Institute will host a workshop for industry this week on the requirements relating to sanitary surveys for shellfish harvesting areas and Ireland’s implementation of the relevant legislation.

The workshop will be held in person at FSAI’s head office in Dublin as well as online from 10am to 2pm this Thursday 8 February, and will include speakers from the SFPA, FSAI, Marine Institute, IFA-Aquaculture, CEFAS (UK) and AquaFact.

Keynote speaker will be Michelle Price-Howard from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Science (CEFAS). Price-Howard works with CEFAS as principal scientist for seafood safety and is an environmental microbiologist with 20 years of experience in environmental assessment, water quality and food safety microbiology.

Price-Howard’s work has included environmental risk assessments for sanitary surveys of both aquaculture and wild-harvest shellfisheries for Food Standards Scotland. She has also been involved in providing training at EU and national level on the planning and conducting of sanitary surveys.

In addition, the SFPA will provide presentations on data management and shellfish classification as well as an update on the sanitary survey programme in Ireland.

There will also be an extended session to allow for a discussion on any topic relevant to sanitary surveys that participants may wish to raise. To help better plan the event, participants are asked to send questions or topics in advance if possible to Una Walton at [email protected].

In-person registration is now closed but the workshop can be accessed remotely via Microsoft Teams (Meeting ID: 340 075 071 736; Passcode: g33dRq) or by calling in (audio only) to +353 1 592 3998 with phone conference ID 397 409 122#.

Published in Aquaculture

Shellfish Ireland, a company that specialises in shellfish in West Cork, has launched Ireland's first crab pate after receiving a grant worth €793,281 under the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme implemented by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). The grant was worth a significant amount and enabled the company to invest in new processing equipment and upgrade its cold storage facilities. This investment has allowed the company to develop new fish products from previously discarded waste, thus improving efficiency and reducing the cost of disposal.

Carol Harrington, CEO of Shellfish Ireland, stated that the grant enabled the purchase of new machinery, including a new refrigeration system. This system speeds up the freezing process during processing, enhances the quality of the product, and improves energy efficiency. Consequently, the company can now focus on more value-added products and has recently launched Ireland's first crab pate, currently available in Dunnes and Musgraves stores.

"The machines purchased with the support of the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme will increase our yield from processing crab, making us more competitive in both the domestic and export markets," said Carol. "This investment adds value to the crab and shrimp landings in Ireland, as the majority of the crab and shrimp purchased by Shellfish Ireland is from small to medium boats and family fishing enterprises, supporting rural industries in Ireland."

Since 2021, Shellfish Ireland has received grants worth over €1 million from BIM. This investment significantly improves the efficiency of the business, as it will enable the company to convert previously discarded waste into value-added raw material for secondary processing into fish food.

Shellfish Ireland's products are BRC Garde A certified and are available in major supermarket retailers, as well as restaurants and hotels. They also sell in Europe and Asia.

Established in Castletownbere in 1987 by two young fishermen, Richard Murphy and Peter O'Sullivan Greene, Shellfish Ireland has become one of the largest employers in the area, with more than 130 employees. The Murphy's are still very much involved, with 95-year-old Pat Murphy, Richard's father, serving as the chair of the board of Shellfish Ireland. Despite his age, he actively participates in the business and chairs meetings. Richard's son, Ryan, also works for the company, making it a three-generation family business.

Carol joined Shellfish Ireland in 2014 as a financial controller after taking redundancy from AIB in 2013. She was appointed CEO in 2016, and following Peter's retirement in 2019, GW Biggs Group came on board. This investment is expected to add value to the crab and shrimp landings in Ireland, creating more opportunities for rural industries in the country

Published in BIM
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The Marine Institute, in partnership with several Irish agencies, will be hosting the 12th Shellfish Safety Workshop at its headquarters in Rinville, County Galway, on October 17th, 2023.

The workshop is open to those who work in shellfish aquaculture and food safety, including individuals from the shellfish industry, regulators, scientists, and researchers.

The workshop, which began in 2000 and last took place in October 2019, aims to promote high-quality and safe shellfish through presentations, discussions, and debates. The event will also generate key questions and potential areas for future research.

The workshop's principal objectives include continuing to build a shared understanding and interpretation of food safety risks arising from biotoxin and microbiological contamination and presenting recent and ongoing key research that benefits and supports the shellfish aquaculture industry and regulators.

The event will feature keynote presentations from international colleagues on developments of key importance to shellfish safety in Ireland, as well as updates and findings presented from national monitoring and research programs for phytoplankton, biotoxins, and microbiological contamination.

The workshop will also feature a poster session and exhibition stands, providing an opportunity for further discussion and to meet with representatives and colleagues from a variety of state agencies, academic and research institutions, and the shellfish industry in an informal environment.

Dave Clarke, Shellfish Safety Manager at the Marine Institute, described the event as "a fantastic opportunity for those working in the shellfish sector to meet and discuss the current issues, latest trends and patterns, and the latest research advances in the field."

Individuals interested in attending can register for the free, in-person event on the Marine Institute's website. A confirmed agenda and timeline will be provided by the end of September.

The Marine Institute, in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and Irish Farmers Association Aquaculture (IFA), is hosting the Workshop.

Published in Aquaculture

Five shellfish production areas have been upgraded, and 15 production areas have been downgraded in the annual classification list for commercial shellfish.

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) assessed 134 classifications in 60 production areas against strict safety requirements for human consumption.

The SFPA says that six production areas changed from an A classification to Seasonal A classification; one production area moved from a Seasonal A to a B classification and eight production areas decreased in seasonality (i.e., shortening in seasonal length).

One production area was declared as dormant due to inactivity over the last twelve months, and limited monitoring data is available.

Live shellfish can only be harvested from production areas which meet strict classification requirements for human consumption, as set out under European and Irish Food laws.

The SFPA, in collaboration with the shellfish industry, conducts regular shellfish sampling in all production areas, monitoring the levels of bacterial contamination of shellfish to determine the risk and classification status.

Ireland produced an estimated 29,000 tonnes of shellfish in 2022 - including mussels (both rope and bottom culture), oysters, clams, cockles, and scallops - from classified production areas annually, and an additional 2,200 tonnes of scallops are landed from offshore sites, the SFPA says.

The Irish aquaculture-farmed shellfish sector is worth an estimated €71 million annually (up 10% on last year’s figures), which was reported in the BIM report on The Business of Seafood 2022.

Around 90% of shellfish produced in Ireland is exported, principally to European and Asian markets, and Ireland is the second largest producer of oysters in Europe after France.

Table 1. Shellfish Classification based on E. coli monitoringTable 1. Shellfish Classification based on E. coli monitoring Source: SFPA

Published in SFPA
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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has published its annual classification list for commercial shellfish (bivalve mollusc) production areas across Ireland.

This assesses 135 classifications in 60 production areas against strict safety requirements for human consumption.

Across Ireland, nine production areas received “upgrades” during the 2022 review of classifications, one production area received a shift in Seasonal A classification, twelve production areas received “downgrades”, one production area was de-classified for mussels, two production areas were declared as dormant, and two production areas received additional classifications, the SFPA says.

Ireland produces an estimated 28,100 tonnes of shellfish - including mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops - from classified production areas annually, the SFPA says.

An additional 2,700 tonnes of scallops are landed from offshore sites, it says.

Live shellfish can only be harvested from production areas which meet strict classification requirements for human consumption, as set out under European and Irish Food laws.

The SFPA, in collaboration with the shellfish industry, conducts regular shellfish sampling in all production areas, monitoring the levels of bacterial contamination of shellfish to determine the risk and classification status. Each production area is designated a rating that determines the conditions, if any, which need to be observed before shellfish can be sold for human consumption.

The Irish aquaculture sector is worth an estimated €64 million annually (at the first point of sale) and employs around 1,984 people across the country. Around 90% of shellfish produced in Ireland is exported, principally to European and Asian markets, and Ireland is the second largest producer of oysters in Europe after France, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said that Ireland’s shellfish monitoring programme was important for both consumers and commercial producers.

“One of the principal remits of the SFPA is to ensure that Irish and international consumers can be assured of the quality and safety of fish and seafood harvested here, and that we have sustainable stocks for generations to come,” he said.

“Shellfish production is an important industry in many coastal communities around Ireland and it is essential that the highest standards of food safety are maintained at all times,” he added.

“ The SFPA works in collaboration with industry and other state agencies to ensure that production areas are of the highest possible standard and meet rigorous assessment criteria to ensure that the safety and quality of the shellfish placed on the market is not compromised in any manner,” he said.

“ This work is an important pillar in both preserving and further enhancing Ireland’s global reputation for quality, safe and delicious seafood. It is incumbent upon all working in the industry to remain vigilant to any risks which have the potential to impact our seafood production areas and that we adopt a collective approach throughout with a focus on quality and sustainable seafood,” Hayes said.

Sinéad Keaveney, who is the Marine Institute’s shellfish microbiology team leader said that the publication of the classification list is the annual culmination of the ongoing partnership between the Marine Institute and SFPA in the microbiological monitoring of shellfish production areas in Ireland.

“As the National Reference Laboratory for monitoring E. coli contamination in bivalve shellfish, the Marine Institute oversees the national E. coli testing programme,” she said.

“ This contributes significantly to the assessment of the risk of microbiological contamination in shellfish production areas and the overall classification status of individual production areas,” she said.

The SFPA carries out its annual review of all shellfish classifications, drawing on the previous three-year dataset of microbiological results for classifications.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is used as a proxy or faecal indicator; E.coli levels in shellfish samples are used to determine the classification status of production sites and determines the required harvesting protocols.

During the period January 2019 to January 2022, approximately 4,788 microbiological E.coli samples were taken by the SFPA and reviewed.

Published in Aquaculture
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Interested parties are now invited to apply for a licence to fish the 2022/2023 native oyster fishery on Lough Foyle.

Applicants will be required to submit a completed application via post, which must be received on or before Friday 29 July.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide proof of postage in the event of a late application delivery or a missing application.

At this stage the Loughs Agency asks that only completed application forms are sent. Please do not send additional documents or payment.

Loughs Agency offices are currently closed but application forms are available for download.

The licence fee is £150 or €166 and fees payable on receipt of licence.

No late applications will be accepted without proof of postage within the stated application timeframe.

Send applications to the following address:

Oyster Licence Applications
Loughs Agency
22 Victoria Road
Derry ~ Londonderry
BT47 2AB
Northern Ireland

Telephone opening hours 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday
Tel: +44 (0) 28 71 342100
Fax: +44 (0) 28 71 342720

Published in Fishing

Two shellfish projects will benefit among the awards made under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s 2021 call for research proposals.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue and Minster of State Martin Heydon jointly announced the awards today (Monday 6 December), with more than €20 million being awarded to 24 research projects across the agrifood, aquaculture and forestry sectors — some funded in conjunction with DAERA in Northern Ireland.

At the Marine Institute, a project led by Dave Clarke to study the increasing rusk of paralytic shellfish poisoning events in Ireland receives a total of €599,580.73.

In collaboration with UCD and GMIT, this project investigates the increasing abundance and distribution of paralytic shellfish toxins, a highly potent group of naturally occurring marine toxins which can occur in shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams, cockles) which, when present, can cause serious illness and fatalities to humans if consumed, posing a serious risk to food safety.

A comprehensive sampling and analytical programme targeting these toxins in the water, sediment and shellfish will be conducted in aquaculture production areas, to identify the causes, timing, environmental factors and mechanistic pathways of toxin occurrence.

It’s expected the results will allow for risk management strategies and predictive forecasting tools to be implemented as an early warning system for the aquaculture industry and regulatory competent authorities, thus providing increased assurances to consumer safety and supporting the integrity, quality and commercial reputation of Irish shellfish.

Elsewhere, Prof Sarah Culloty of University College Cork is collaborating with the Marine Institute on bridging research and practice to improve the future sustainability and growth of the Irish bivalve industry. This project receives a total of €599,444.92.

Shellfish have a significant socio-economic and ecological role to play in Irish marine coastal communities and environments. Mussels, oysters, and cockles contribute to at least 65% of marine aquaculture volume and play a substantial role in water quality improvement, sediment stabilisation, and biodiversity enhancement.

Disease and climate change represent a serious threat to the maintenance and sustainable growth of this sector.

This project will adopt an all-island grassroots approach to identify the key drivers contributing to and inhibiting growth in this sector currently and into the future. The socio-economic and ecosystem services provided by this industry will also be evaluated. Knowledge transfer will be a crucial output.

Mitigation strategies, guidelines and recommendations will be provided to stakeholder communities, including policy/regulatory end users, to reduce the impact of risks that the Irish shellfish sector faces currently and into the future.

Published in Aquaculture
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The Marine Institute has collaborated with 10 European partners as part of the research project Alertox-Net: Atlantic Area Network for Innovative Toxicity Alert Systems for Safer Seafood Products.

Alertox-Net has focused on developing a marine toxin warning network to facilitate the market delivery of safer marine food products in European waters.

Funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area European Regional Development Fund, Alertox-Net has provided a better prediction system of potential seafood toxicity risk while providing scientific advice to meet the needs of stakeholders.

The Marine Institute says this future-proofing detection and alert system is focused on emerging toxins so that the shellfish aquaculture industry will be prepared and ready to detect potential emerging toxins.

Joe Silke, director of marine environment and food safety services at the Marine Institute, said: “Alertox-Net is providing technical solutions for faster and easier detection methods for emerging toxins to the European shellfish industry, and these resources are currently being collated into one integrated expertise network.”

Alertox-Net has also helped to deliver scientific, technical services and provide advice to regulatory authorities, which will underpin future development in Europe's aquaculture sector.

A recent project meeting included talks on the validation completed on a multi-method for regulating emerging toxins, and the creation of an open access database on toxin isolation and structure elucidation.

The meeting also acknowledged the 20 papers which have been published as part of the Alertox-Net project.

Published in Aquaculture
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The public has been warned against against recreational gathering of shellfish such as mussels, clams, cockles or oysters over increased levels of illness-causing toxins.

Routine shellfish monitoring by the Marine Institute along South West and West coasts detected increased levels of these naturally occurring compounds in recent weeks.

Such levels are common at this time of the year and are due to microscopic phytoplankton species blooming in coastal waters during the warmer and longer days of summer, the institute says.

Toxins they produce can accumulate in filter feeding shellfish and can make people ill, even if the shellfish is cooked, it adds.

The specific toxins of concern may cause diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP), a temporary gastroenteritis-like illness, or the less common paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), which can result in serious illness.

Commercial shellfish businesses in affected areas have been closed temporary in the interest of public safety — though safe alternatives are available from other parts of the country through approved suppliers.

Dave Clarke is manager of the Marine Institute’s shellfish safety programme.

“In Ireland we operate a world class-shellfish safety programme to ensure food safety prior to harvesting,” he says.

“This sophisticated monitoring programme is designed to protect the consumer and ensure the highest quality of Irish shellfish on international and home markets.

“This summer, so far, has seen high levels of toxic phytoplankton and toxins in shellfish requiring temporary closures until the problem abates. It is stressed, however, that these only affect shellfish. Swimming and other coastal recreations are not affected.

“We would strongly advise the public to avoid picking their own shellfish along the shoreline, and to only source shellfish from an approved retail establishment.”

Published in Fishing

A postgraduate researcher is investigating the biotoxin production potential of Azadinium and related species in Irish waters, particularly in estuaries used for shellfish aquaculture such as Killary Harbour and Bantry Bay.

Stephen McGirr — a PhD candidate at the Institute of Technology Sligo and a Cullen Fellow at the Marine Institute — is studying Azadinium, a planktonic single-celled plant that lives in marine waters around Ireland.

Under certain conditions, Azadinium produces biotoxins which can build up in shellfish that feed on them. If eaten by humans, this can lead to shellfish poisoning.

Understanding more about the biology of this species would help both the shellfish aquaculture industry and protect human health.

“The genus Azadinium was first linked to incidents of shellfish poisoning in the 1990s and both toxic and non-toxic forms of the Azadinium species have since been identified in Irish waters,” McGirr says.

“More knowledge of the biology of the species is needed to support monitoring efforts currently underway to assist the aquaculture industry.”

Ireland’s aquaculture industry employed 1,925 people on 288 aquaculture production units, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s Business of Seafood Report 2018. In 2018 it is estimated that Ireland produced 24,200 tonnes of farmed shellfish valued at €56 million.

“Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities,” McGirr adds.

“The closure of aquaculture production sites due to biotoxins produced by organisms such as Azadinium impacts the industry and can also be detrimental to local economies.”

Stephen’s research supports the Marine Institute's National Phytoplanton Monitoring Programme, which monitors phytoplankton populations and dynamics around the Irish coastline.

‘Aquaculture is a valuable industry to our national economy as well as for many of Ireland's coastal communities’

McGirr says the Marine Institute’s Cullen Fellowship Programme is giving him the opportunity to learn and develop his skillset, working alongside scientists who are experts in their field, as well as gaining hands-on experience using state-of-the art equipment in the Institute's laboratories.

“I have joined two surveys on the RV Celtic Voyager along the south and western coastline of Ireland to collect both water column and sediment samples for our analyses.

“I have also presented my research at international conferences, including the International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety held in Galway and the International Conference on Harmful Algae, held in Nantes, France.”

McGirr is currently focusing his efforts on translating the product of his research into articles for peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research supervisors are Joe Silke, Marine Institute and Dr Nicolas Touzet, IT Sligo.

The Cullen Fellowship Programme builds marine research capacity and capability by equipping graduates with the skills and expertise in raising awareness about our ocean, as well as Ireland's rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

The programme has provided grant aid to the value of €2.06 million supporting 24 PhD and three MSc students over the last five years. The research addresses a number of the 15 research themes identified in the National Marine Research and Innovation Strategy 2017-2021.

This project (Grant-Aid Agreement No CF/15/01) is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute and funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science
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