Marine Environment & Food Safety Services (MEFSS) is one of six service groups within the Marine Institute. Its’ work focuses on ensuring consumer protection through seafood safety monitoring/testing services; providing monitoring services in support of protection of marine environmental legislation/obligations; and providing advisory services in support of sustainable development and management of the marine environment. This work is delivered via three core functions; Monitoring, Advice and Technical Support, and Research.

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  • Summary Report on 2015 Residue Monitoring of Irish Farmed Finfish and 2015 Border Inspection Post Fishery and Fishery Product Sample Testing

    Marine Institute (Marine Institute, 2017)
    On behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM), the Marine Institute carries out monitoring of chemical residues in finfish for aquaculture sector. This monitoring is set out in the annual National Residue Control Plan, which is approved by the European Commission, and is an important component of the DAFM food safety controls and is implemented under a service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Since 1999, the Marine Institute has implemented the National Residues Monitoring Programme for aquaculture. This is carried out on behalf of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, which is the responsible organisation for residue controls on farmed finfish. The outcome for residues levels in farmed finfish during 2015 remains one of consistently low occurrence. In 2015, in excess of 676 tests and a total of 1,845 measurements were carried out on 128 samples (i.e. 124 target samples & 4 suspect samples) of farmed finfish for a range of chemical substances, including banned and unauthorised substances, various authorised veterinary treatments and environmental contaminants.
  • Monitoring trace metals and organohalogens in shellfish (2014) and physicochemical parameters and trace metals in seawater (2015) under the Shellfish Waters Directive

    Marine Institute (Marine Institute, 2017)
    Directive 2006/113/EC on the Quality Required of Shellfish Waters, also referred to as the Shellfish Waters Directive (SWD) requires the monitoring of, inter alia, certain physicochemical parameters including trace metal contaminants in order to assess and protect the quality of shellfish growing waters and the shellfish harvested from them. Sixty-four areas have been designated as Shellfish Waters (SWs) under SI 268 of 2006, SI 55 of 2009 and SI 464 of 2009. The SWD is concerned the quality of shellfish waters and applied waters designated by the Member States as needing protection or improvement in order to support shellfish (bivalve and gastropod molluscs) life and growth and thus to contribute to the high quality of shellfish products directly edible by man. The Marine Institute undertakes a monitoring programme to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC Transitional and Coastal (TraC) Waters and physico-chemical elements of the SWD.
  • Observations on a bloom of Flagellate "X" in the West of Ireland

    Dunne, T. (ICES, 1984)
    In July 1983 major mortalities of farmed trout and salmon were associated with a bloom of an unidentified organism hitherto unrecorded in Ireland. Three further blooms occurred in 1984, two of which were associated with mortalities. The morphology of this organism (Flagellate "X") as observed in 1983 is described.
  • Dinophysis species in Irish waters 1990 - 1993

    Jackson, D.; Silke, J. (ICES, 1993)
    The distribution and abundance of Dinophysis species as recorded in the national phytoplankton monitoring programme are described. An apparent spread in the occurrence of Dinophysis to the west coast of Ireland is reported. The lack of correlation between the concentrations of Dinophysis in the water and DSP toxicity in shellfish is reported on and discussed.
  • The occurrence of DSP toxicity in Ireland

    Jackson, D.; Silke, J.; Doyle, J.; Nixon, E.; Taaffe, B. (ICES, 1993)
    The geographical and temporal variations in the occurrence of DSP in Ireland are presented and the implications of the resulting closures on aquaculture operations and fisheries are discussed. Prior to 1992 DSP toxicity had been confined to the southwest and south coasts but in 1992 a protracted occurrence of DSP was recorded in Killary Harbour on the west coast.
  • Observed sequential occurrence of phytoplankton and zooplankton in the Dunkellin Estuary, Galway Bay, Ireland

    Byrne, P.; O'Mahony, J.H.T. (ICES, 1993)
    The Dunkellin is a small tidally-dominated estuary to the south-east of Galway Bay in western Ireland. The plankton of the estuary was studied for 18 months between December 1984 and July 1986. This paper presents results on the variation in the sequential occurrenCe of phytoplankton and zooplankton between the inner and outer estuary. Phytoplankton and microzooplankton occurred in high numbers in the spring to autumn months. Highest abundances of phytoplankton and microzooplankton (non-tintinnid ciliates and tintinnid ciliates) were recorded 10 the Inner estuary, whereas mesozooplankton were predominant in the outer reaches.
  • Cork Harbour PSP incident

    Doyle, J.; Dunne, T. (1985)
    Gonyaulax tamarensis is one of the principle organisms involved in Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning in Europe and North America. P.S.P. has not been described in Irish waters with the exception of one incidence in Belfast Lough and also in Kerry in the late 1800s, although this cannot be verified. G. tamarensis has only been recorded in Irish waters as individual organisms and no bloom has been described up to this.
  • The implications of Alexandrium tamarense resting cysts in an area of shellfish aquaculture in Ireland

    Silke, J.; McMahon, T. (1998)
    The Irish Marine Institute's Fisheries Research Centre carry out a monitoring programme for the detection of algal toxins in shellfish. This programme is carried out under EU Directive 91/492. During the course of this programme the North Channel area of Cork Harbour has been the only location in Ireland where toxins causing Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) have been detected in shellfish above the regulatory limit. For short periods during each of the summers of 1996,1997 and 1998, PSP toxins were found in mussels{Mytilus edulis) from this area above the regulatory limit period necessitating a ban on harvesting. Oysters {Crassostrea gigas) from the same area remained below the regulatory threshold. The dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense, a known vector of PSP toxins, was observed in the area during each of the toxic events. The exact origin of the populations of A. tamarense was unknown. A. tamarense is known to produce a cyst stage as part of its life cycle. These cysts can remain viable in the sediments for several years. A survey of the distribution of cysts of A. tamarense in the surface sediments in Cork Harbour was carried out in order to determine if they were potentially seeding the area. They were detected in 6 sites, and successfully germinated to yield vegetative cells. The results of the survey are presented and discussed.
  • Toxic phytoplankton in Irish waters

    Silke, J.; McMahon, T.; Nolan, A. (1995)
    The subject of harmful and toxic marine algae has recently gained a growing public and scientific interest both in Ireland and abroad because of the occurrence of these toxins in shellfish.
  • Report on the incidence and implications of phytoplankton blooms on the East Coast and particularly Wexford Harbour, Summer 1984

    Doyle, J.; Dunne, T. (1984)
    The Fisheries Research Centre had a number of reports of discoloured water between Brittas Bay Co. Wicklow and Wexford Harbour and south to Kilmore Quay. Samples of water received from Dr. David Jeffrey, Department of Botany TCD, collected from Penny-come-quick beach, co. Wicklow on June 17th and examined by Tom Dunne in the Laboratory contained dense colonies of Phaeocystis pouchetii - a microscopic algae. Subsequent samples collected by Miss Ann Kiley, Wexford County Council, traced the extent of the bloom as far south as Neamstown near Kilmore Quay. A sample taken at Cullenstown west of Kilmore Quay was clear. Also associated with this bloom were large numbers of needlelike diatoms (Nitzschia spp. More seriously, blooms of another microscopic alga (Prorocentrum minimum) began to develop in early July during the later phase of the Phaeocystis bloom.
  • Harmful phytoplankton events caused by variability in the Irish Coastal Current along the west of Ireland

    O'Boyle, S.; Nolan, G.; Raine, R. (UNESCO IOC, 2001)
    Frequent sampling in summer along the western and northwestern coasts of Ireland showed the rapid onshore development of blooms of potentially harmful phytoplankton species. In both 1998 and 1999, concentrations of Gyrodinium cf. aureolum rose by four orders of magnitude to over one million cells per litre in Donegal Bay(northwestern Ireland) in less than 10days. The rapid development of these populations was linked to advection resulting from unfavourable wind-forcing of the Irish Coastal Current (ICG) which runs northwards along the western Irish coast. Current measurements showed that after a particular sequence of changes in wind direction phytoplankton populations could be rapidly advected from areas of slack circulation on the shelf via the ICC into aquaculturally sensitive coastal zones such as Donegal Bay. The model presented is similar to one already demonstrated for the occurrence of toxic events in the bays of southwestern Ireland. Other historical harmful events along the west and northwest coasts relating to substantial losses in both finfish and shellfish culture could also be explained using the model. These include the G. aureolum bloom of 1992, the Prorocentrum balticum bloom in 1997.
  • The oceanography of southwest Ireland: current research activities

    Raine, R.; Whelan, D.; Conway, N.; Joyce, B.; Moloney, M.; Hoey, M.J.; Patching, J.W. (Fisheries Research Centre, 1993)
    The coastal waters of Ireland are rich in physical features affecting both chemistry and biology. Amongst these are the tidal fronts of the Irish Sea (Le Fevre, 1986) and the Irish Shelf Front on the Atlantic coast lying along the 200m iso bath (Huang et al., 1991). Recently, an upwelling system has been described in the vicinity of the Fastnet Rock (Roden, 1986; Raine et al., 1990). Coastal upwelling systems are ecologically very important and are generally extremely productive, as nutrients brought up to the sea surface can stimulate extensive phytoplankton growth. This paper describes further satellite and ship-based investigations which are currently being carried out to examine the mechanisms driving the upwelling system and its effect on local ecology.
  • Dinoflagellate cysts in Irish coastal sediments - a preliminary report

    O'Mahony, J.H.; Silke, J. (1993)
    Since the mid 1970's the production of bivalve shellfish in Ireland has increased annually to a present level of some 17,000 tonnes. Several problems limit the continued expansion of the industry, most notably the problem of natural biotoxins. These toxins are accumulated in the product by the ingestion of toxic phytoplankton. This causes no obvious ill effects to the shellfish themselves but upon consumption may be transferred to human or other vertebrate consumers causing illness and sometimes death. In Ireland the most common of the toxins are those associated with Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning (DSP) which causes diarrhoea. Other more serious toxins which to date have not been confirmed in Ireland are those associated with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) which causes paralysis or even death and Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) which causes short term memory loss. Of the phytoplankton species which can result in toxicity, under both bloom and non bloom conditions, the dinoflagellates play an important role. Many of these dinoflagellates have been shown to include a dormant benthic cyst stage in their life cycle. Therefore a better understanding of the dynamics of toxic events may be obtained by studying the distribution and abundance of benthic cysts. There is growing international concern about the transport of harmful aquatic organisms, including cysts, into new areas via the discharge of ships ballast water. Also, as a result of EC directive 91/67/EEC permitting the free movement of shellfish between EU member states there is now increasing concern in Ireland that harmful cysts may be introduced with shipments of imported shellfish. Little research has been carried out on the distribution of dinoflagellate cysts in Irish marine sediments. In this paper preliminary results of a study designed to map the distribution and undertake taxonomic studies on dinoflagellate and other cysts in Ireland are presented and discussed. Also presented are the results of the examination of cysts associated with imported shellfish.
  • Assessment of the risk of introducing harmful marine organisms by shipping to Bantry Bay

    Minchin, D. (1997)
    The main shipping activity in Bantry Bay is centred at Leahill, a site where there is aggregate extraction with direct transmission to bulk carriers at a dedicated pier. The size of vessels ranges from 250 to7,800mtNRT but with the majority of vessels being of 700 to l,800mtNRT. Ballast water from these vessels is required to be deposited at sea before entering the Bay should these vessels becoming from outside of Ireland. If this is done the risk of introducing dinoflagellate species present in those ports in Atlantic France and Spain will be reduced. Vessels from Irish ports are not required to discharge ballast before entering the Bay. The main risk to Bantry Bay, albeit small - because the amount of ballast discharged is small, is from inoculations of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium tamarense from ships that have ballasted in Cork Harbouror Belfast Lough. It would be prudent for vessels ballasting in these sea inlets not to do so in the region and during the time of the toxic algal bloom events. Although vegetative stages of A. tamarense have been identified from the plankton of Bantry Bay and Alexandrium sp. cysts have been found in fine sediments it is not known whether further inoculations of A. tamarense either in its vegetative or cyst state could result in a PSP event within the Bay. The development of a management plan for ships' ballasting in Cork Harbour and Belfast Lough based on cyst distributions and the distribution of algal bloom events could greatly reduce the risk of a transfer. In the meantime discoloured water in Cork Harbour and Belfast Lough should not be ballasted. The Cork Harbour Commissioners will be advised when algal bloom events take place so that basic precautions.
  • Amnesic shellfish poisoning in the king scallop, Pecten maximus, from the west coast of Scotland

    Campbell, D.A.; Kelly, M.S.; Busman, M.; Bolch, C.J.S.; Wiggins, E.; Moeller, P.D.R.; Morton, S.L.; Hess, P.; Shumway, S.E. (National Shellfisheries Association, 2001)
    The king scallop, Pecten maximus, is a valuable economic resource in the UK. The industry relies on supplying premium "roe-on" processed scallops to the continental market. In July 1999, king scallops harboring the amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP) toxin, domnic acid (DA), in gonadal tissue at levels above the regulatory limit (20 μg DA g-1) were detected across a wide area of northern and western Scotland. In response, a survey of the southern extent of the closed harvest areas was initiated to describe variability of ASP toxin levels over varying spatial scales (<5 m to >5 km); determine the anatomical distribution of the toxin, and identify, isolate, and culture causative Pseudo-nitzschia species. Toxin analysis was conducted using a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy (LC-MS/MS) procedure. The DA content of tissues followed the predictable rank order: all other tissue -1 gonad -1 adductor. The toxin levels within all other tissue (95% Cl = 580-760 μg DA g-1, n = 170) consistently accounted for 99% of the total individual toxin burden. DA levels in the gonad (95% CI = 8.2-11.0 μg DA g- 1, n = 170) were an order of magnitude below levels in all other tissue and contributed to less than 0.5% of the total individual toxin burden, although levels above the regulatory limit were detected in individual gonad samples. Adductor muscle tissue contained the lowest concentration of DA (95% Cl = 0.38-0.82 μg DA g- 1, n = 170), and was typically within two to three orders of magnitude below levels in all other tissue. None of the scallops examined had DA toxicities in adductor muscle tissue exceeding the regulatory limit. Toxin variability among individuals and sites was high (range of coefficients of variation (CV) in all other tissue = 29&-l20% and gonadal = 45%-85%). The results do give an indication of the scale on which microhabitat differences may influence ASP toxicity in P. maximus populations, because significant differences were found in all other and gonadal tissue toxin levels between groups of individuals only 25-m apart. In total, seven species of Pseudo-nitzschia were identified from west coast waters. A suspected causative species, P. australis, was found to produce high levels of DA, in culture. The high individual variation in toxicities and the occurrence of DA in the gonad at levels above the regula1ory limit clearly demonstrate the complexity of managing the king scallop fishery during ASP events.
  • Factors affecting the concentration of domoic acid in scallop, Pecten maximus

    Bogan, Y. (2006)
    Domoic acid, a neurotoxin produced by some Pseudo-nitzschia species, can accumulate in shellfish, consumption of which can result in Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. Since its detection in Irish king scallop, Pecten maximus, regulatory monitoring of toxin levels in product entering the human food chain has been undertaken. Only limited data exist on factors that may influence variability in scallop DA concentration in the field. DA concentration in scallop tissues from a range of sites around Ireland, analysed using HPLC-PDA, exhibited high concentrations in hepatopancreas (max. 3834.4 (μg.g-1), much lower in gonad (max. 61.3 μg.g-1) and even lower concentrations in adductor muscle (max. 31.8 μg.g-1). Toxin concentration in hepatopancreas and scallop size usually exhibited no relationship and there was little support for the hypothesis that shellfish size influenced toxin concentration. DA concentration exhibited site-specific relationships with water depth. Toxin concentration in suspended scallops compared to seabed scallops exhibited a statistically significant difference on only one sampling occasion. Attempts to correlate the occurrence of DA in bivalves with the abundance of cells of Pseudo-nitzschia species were unsuccessful. Given the extent of field variability in DA concentration, a landings-based approach to toxin management rather than an area-based approach would reduce the risks of poisoning.
  • Report on analysis of shellfish samples for the presence of Yessotoxins (YTX)

    Marine Institute (Marine Institute, 2001)
    In order to determine the cause of the positive mouse bioassay results obtained in mussel samples from several shellfish production areas (including Bantry Bay, Kenmare Bay, Cromane and Lough Foyle), samples were sent in December 2000 and January 2001 for analysis. Positive mouse bioassay results were obtained, using the Yasumoto (1978) assay, in the EU Reference Laboratory and using the Yasumoto (l 984) assay in the Italian Reference Laboratory. ASP toxins, Azaspiracid, Okadaic acid and DTXs were not detected. Yessotoxin, homoYessotoxins and analogues of Yessotoxins were not detected in the samples sent to the EU Reference Laboratory or the Italian Reference Laboratory. Prof. Yasumoto detected the presence of Yessotoxin and 45-hydroxyYessotoxin at the Japan Food Research Laboratory. 45-hydroxyYessotoxin is a shellfish metabolite of Yessotoxin, which occurs with time as the YTX is oxidised by the shellfish. The shellfish samples in which Yessotoxin and 45-hydroxy Yessotoxin were detected were taken from Bantry Bay, Roaring Water Bay (Summer 2000) and Mulroy Bay. If the initial detection of Yessotoxin and 45-hydroxyYessotoxin is confirmed in other samples, the Irish biotoxin management regime and the production cycles for shellfish (in particular mussels) will have to be adapted to encompass YTX.
  • Use of LC-MS testing to identify lipophilic toxins, to establish local trends and interspecies differences and to test the comparability of LC-MS testing with the mouse bioassay: an example from the Irish biotoxin monitoring programme 2001

    Hess, P.; McMahon, T.; Slattery, D.; Swords, D.; Dowling, G.; McCarron, M.; Clarke, D.; Gobbons, W.; Silke, J.; O'Cinneide, M. (Conselleria de Pesca e Asuntos Maritimos da Xunta de Galicia and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, 2003)
    During 2001, the Marine Institute has extended its range of chemical tests to include the analysis of DSP toxins by Liquid Chromatography coupled to Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS). Thus the range of compounds determined extends from domoic acid over DSP compounds (okadaic acid and DTXs) to azaspiracids (AZAs). These tests complement the mouse bioassay, which is the current reference method for lipophilic toxins within the European Community. The development and performance characteristics of the LC-MS method are discussed. Isomer patterns and interspecies differences are discussed as well as local trends in time and variability at one production site at a given time. Comparison of the LC-MS results with the results from the mouse bioassay showed good agreement (93%), and a small but significant number of discrepancies (7%). Overall, the chemical testing has proven to be an invaluable tool in the assessment of shellfish toxicity in Ireland. Lacks of standards and reference materials are discussed as well as the need for further research into the equivalence of methods.
  • Risk factors associated with increased mortality of farmed Pacific oysters in Ireland during 2011

    Clegg, T.A.; Morrissey, T.; Geoghegan, F.; Martin, S.W.; Lyons, K.; Ashe, S.; More, S.J. (Elsevier, 2014)
    The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, plays a significant role in the aquaculture industry in Ireland. Episodes of increased mortality in C. gigas have been described in many countries, and in Ireland since 2008. The cause of mortality events in C. gigas spat and larvae is suspected to be multifactorial, with ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1, in particular OsHV-1 μvar) considered a necessary, but not sufficient, cause. The objectives of the current study were to describe mortality events that occurred in C. gigas in Ireland during the summer of 2011 and to identify any associated environmental, husbandry and oyster endogenous factors. A prospective cohort study was conducted during 2010–2012, involving 80 study batches, located at 24 sites within 17 bays. All 17 bays had previously tested positive for OsHV-1 μvar. All study farmers were initially surveyed to gather relevant data on each study batch, which was then tracked from placement in the bay to first grading. The outcome of interest was cumulative batch-level mortality (%). Environmental data at high and low mortality sites were compared, and a risk factor analysis, using a multiple linear regression mixed effects model, was conducted. Cumulative batch mortality ranged from 2% to 100% (median = 16%, interquartile range: 10–34%). The final multivariable risk factor model indicated that batches imported from French hatcheries had significantly lower mortalities than non-French hatcheries; sites which tested negative for OsHV-1 μvar during the study had significantly lower mortalities than sites which tested positive and mortalities increased with temperature until a peak was reached. There were several differences between the seed stocks from French and non-French hatcheries, including prior OsHV-1 μvar exposure and ploidy. A range of risk factors relating to farm management were also considered, but were not found significant. The relative importance of prior OsHV-1 μvar infection and ploidy will become clearer with ongoing selection towards OsHV-1 μvar resistant oysters. Work is currently underway in Ireland to investigate these factors further, by tracking seed from various hatchery sources which were put to sea in 2012 under similar husbandry and environmental conditions.

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