Irish Scientists Central to Protecting International Shellfish Industry

Monday, 15 June 2009

(Leagan Gaeilge) Marine scientists at NUI Galway have been successful in securing €1.6 million in EU funding to advance testing technologies in the shellfish industry. The University's Martin Ryan Institute will collaborate with European colleagues to test a new, rapid methodology for the local analysis of algal toxins in shellfish. The funding comes from the EU Northern Periphery Programme and the project will be led by Dr Robin Raine at NUI Galway. According to Dr Robin Raine, "Caused by toxin producing plankton, harmful algal blooms are a serious environmental problem worldwide. One of the significant consequences is that these toxins accumulate in shellfish and, whilst harmless to the shellfish, can cause a variety of very serious gastrointestinal and neurological disorders when contaminated mussels, oysters, etc., are eaten by humans". The threat to human health is so great that, under EU directives, all coastal Member States are required to monitor the presence of toxin producing plankton in coastal waters as well as toxin levels in shellfish. In Ireland, this monitoring is carried out by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources' Marine Institute, in their new laboratories at Rinville, Co. Galway. Through the €1.6 million project, rapid testing methods will be advanced for remote fisheries in countries such as Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands. The hope is that new technologies will allow the shellfish industries to test their produce for toxins locally, rather than sending samples to laboratories elsewhere. NUI Galway is also working with international experts on predicting harmful algal blooms in the marine environment, the root cause of contaminated shellfish. This week (15-19 June) the University hosts a training workshop for 60 international delegates under the auspices of GEOHAB (Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) which is the UNESCO sponsored project on this subject. According to Dr Raine, predicting the occurrence of these harmful algal blooms is important so that their damaging economic effects to the aquaculture industry can be substantially reduced. Taking Ireland as an example, the shellfish aquaculture industry is currently valued at €63 million per annum. However, annual losses sustained through the contamination of shellfish with algal toxins, combined with the cost of monitoring the presence of these toxins amounts to over €3 million. "This is a huge financial burden on what is an intrinsically sustainable industry. We really need to focus on predicting the blooms and where they will manifest; something like a blight warning system for the sea. This will go some way to reducing the costs for the aquaculture industry in Ireland and around the world", said Dr Raine.
Eolaithe Éireannacha chun an Tionscal Sliogéisc Idirnáisiúnta a Chosaint
(View in English) Tá eolaithe mara in OÉ Gaillimh i ndiaidh maoiniú €1.6 milliún a fháil ón AE chun teicneolaíocht tástála a fheabhsú sa tionscal sliogéisc. Oibreoidh Institiúid Mháirtín Uí Riain i gcomhar le comhghleacaithe san Eoraip chun modheolaíocht nua, sciobtha a thástáil chun anailís áitiúil a dhéanamh ar thocsainí algacha i sliogiasc. Tá an maoiniú ag teacht as Clár Fhorimeall Thuaidh an AE agus beidh an Dr Robin Raine as OÉ Gaillimh i gceannas ar an tionscadal. Deir an Dr Robin Raine, "Táirgeann planctón tocsain, agus cuireann blás algach dochrach isteach go mór ar an gcomhshaol ar fud an domhain. An rud is measa go mbailíonn na tocsainí seo i sliogiasc agus, cé nach ndéanann siad aon dochar don sliogiasc féin, d'fhéadfaí an-dochar a dhéanamh do shláinte an duine má itear diúilicíní, oisrí etc. a bhfuil an tocsain iontu. Cruthaíonn an tocsain neamhoird ghastraistéigeacha agus néareolaíocha atá thar a bheith dainséarach". Tá an tocsain chomh contúirteach do dhaoine go gcaithfidh Ballstáit ar an gcósta, faoi threoracha an AE, súil a choinneáil ar phlanctón a tháirgeann tocsain ar an gcósta agus an leibhéal tocsaine i sliogiasc. In Éirinn, déanann Foras na Mara sa Roinn Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha an obair seo sa tsaotharlann nua i Rinn Mhíl, Co. na Gaillimhe. Faoin tionscadal €1.6 milliún, forbrófar modhanna tástála sciobtha d'iascaigh iargúlta i dtíortha cosúil leis an Albain, an Iorua agus Oileáin Fharó. Is é aidhm na teicneolaíochta nua seo go mbeidh an tionscal sliogéisc in ann tástáil tocsaine a dhéanamh ar a dtáirgí go háitiúil seachas samplaí a sheoladh chuig saotharlanna i bhfad ó bhaile. Tá OÉ Gaillimh ag oibriú i gcomhar le saineolaithe idirnáisiúnta chun blás algach dochrach a aimsiú san uisce, is é an blás seo a mhilleann an sliogiasc. An tseachtain seo (15-19 Meitheamh) beidh ceardlann oiliúna ar siúl san Ollscoil do 60 toscaire idirnáisiúnta faoi choimirce GEOHAB (Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms), tionscadal atá urraithe ag UNESCO ar an ábhar seo. Deir an Dr Raine, go bhfuil sé tábhachtach an blás algach dochrach seo a aimsiú chun go bhféadfar an damáiste a dhéanann sé don tionscal dobharshaothraithe a mhaolú. Is fiú €63 milliún sa bhliain an tionscal sliogéisc in Éirinn faoi láthair. Cailltear os cionn €3 mhilliún sa bhliain nuair a mhilleann na tocsainí algacha an sliogiasc agus tríd an monatóireacht a dhéantar ar na tocsainí. "Is mór an costas é sin ar thionscal atá inmharthana ann féin. Caithfear a chinntiú go n-aimseofar an blás; teastaíonn córas rabhaidh uainn. Laghdóidh sé seo an costas ar an tionscal in Éirinn agus ar fud an domhain", a dúirt an Dr Raine.
-Críoch-

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